'Last Place' May Stay Closed for 1 Year Depending on Trial Result

Posted at: 08/19/2013 6:40 PM
Updated at: 08/19/2013 6:43 PM

Duluth's Last Place on Earth could soon be ordered to close its doors for a year, depending on the outcome of a trial now underway in St. Louis County court.

The City of Duluth is trying to prove that the business and its sale of synthetic drugs is a nuisance.

Following several hours of testimony, Randall Tigue, shop owner Jim Carlson's attorney, said "I think the testimony went very well for us."

But City Attorney Gunnar Johnson said "the city is pleased with the way the evidence is going in so far."

Those positive attitudes may not last depending on how Judge Shaun Floerke rules. Should he rule in favor of the city, Johnson said the Last Place will have to close for one year.

In the courtroom Monday, the city called nine witnesses including a forensic scientist, police officers and city employees who bought synthetic drugs from the shop undercover earlier this year.

The forensic expert said some of those synthetic drugs contained a controlled substance.

Police testified that crime has dropped since the business closed in July following a federal judge's ruling. The city compared the 23 days before and after it closed and found that the calls for service in the area dropped from 390 to 271.

Tigue argued there isn't any proof that the closure of the business is the reason for the drop.

Should Carlson be forced to shut down his business, he tells Eyewitness News he is considering moving elsewhere. "If I wanted to move to another location, it's only out of that address [his current address on East Superior Street] that they can stop me from selling anything," he said.

Depending on where he goes, Johnson said "if he is going to move within the city of Duluth he would still have to obtain a license to sell synthetic drugs. If he moved outside he'd have to comply with state and federal laws and local jurisdictions."

Tigue argues the new licensing ordinance, which took effect in early July, is unconstitutional because it would violate Carlson's right against self-incrimination. Should he apply for a license, Tigue said Carlson would be admitting to breaking the law.

Testimony continues at 8:30 Tuesday morning.

The city plans to call doctors, business leaders and a crime expert. Tigue said he will not call any witnesses to the stand.