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Taverns refile discrimination lawsuit against Racine (UPDATE)

Attorneys for a group of bar owners in Racine have refiled their civil rights lawsuit against city officials after a judge said their original suit was too vague.

The complaint, at 119 pages, has more than doubled in length from the initial filing. One bar owner was dropped from the case, as were four defendants.

Eastern District of Wisconsin Judge Lynn Adelman earlier this month ruled that the original suit was “much too vague to provide any meaningful notice to the defendants of the respective plaintiffs’ claims.”

But the allegations in the new complaint, filed Thursday, remain the same, even if they are more specific this time. The suit goes into much more detail about certain incidents to try to prove that Racine officials are helping white-owned bars and doing their best to drive out those owned by black, Hispanic and Asian residents.

It also accuses Racine Mayor John Dickert of accepting illegal financial contributions from the local tavern league and rewarding the league’s white members with the newly surrendered liquor licenses or high-level city positions.

According to the bar owners’ suit, city officials “have waged war on minority-owned taverns in downtown Racine” and “have turned a blind eye to the infractions committed by white-owned tavern owners and their mostly white patrons, actively supporting and protecting them instead of policing them in the manner they do minority-owned taverns.”

According to the suit:

“With respect to the white-owned bars with white patrons, there were 588 calls to the police for service with only 42 referrals to the Licensing Committee. Based on those calls, zero bars were required to enter into side-agreements and zero licenses were revoked or surrendered;

In contrast, with respect to the minority-owned bars with minority patrons, there were 276 calls to the police for service with 84 referrals to the Licensing Committee. Based on those calls, five of the 12 bars were forced to enter into side-agreements (some on multiple occasions) and seven of the 12 licenses were revoked or surrendered;”

The city has to file a response to the suit within 21 days.

Marty Kohler, an attorney with Kohler & Hart SC, Milwaukee, said in February that the case stemmed from one client. Several others later joined and the lawsuit is the result of a year of investigation, he said at the time.

About Eric Heisig

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