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East Village Bar Sues City of Des Moines for $12.5 Million

Lime Lounge (WHO-HD)

DES MOINES, Iowa – An East Village bar is suing the city of Des Moines, the Chief of Police, a city councilman, and other city employees – claiming the defendants’ actions negatively impacted their business and caused false and damaging information to be spread.

The owners of Lime Lounge are seeking $12.5 million in damages.

The lawsuit, which was filed June 3rd lists the city of Des Moines, Zoning Enforcement Officer Suann Donovan, Police Chief Dana Wingert, Senior Police Officer Kelly Stuhr, and Police Sergeant Paul Parizek as defendants. An amended lawsuit filed Tuesday added Des Moines City Council member Joe Gatto to the list of defendants.

The lawsuit claims the “defendants combined to engage in a civil conspiracy of which the principal element was to inflict wrongs against and/or injury on the Plaintiffs.”

In claiming malicious prosecution by the defendants, the owners of Lime Lounge cited repeated efforts taken by Donovan, beginning in July of 2015 to revoke the business’ Conditional Use Permit, based on the use of outside speakers at the bar.

The lawsuit also alleges Police Chief Dana Wingert and Sr. Officer Stuhr issued a letter in May of 2018 declaring Lime Lounge’s location, 435 Grand Ave., “a ‘Specified Crime Property’ based on alleged violations of law of the Plaintiff.” In June of 2018, the city voluntarily dismissed the “Specified Crime Property” designation.

The city is accused of interfering in Lime Lounge’s lease agreement by contacting the owners of the property. The lawsuit claims, “Stuhr made multiple attempts to knowingly interfere with Lime Lounge’s lease agreement…”

The lawsuit references statements made to local media by Public Information Officer Sgt. Paul Parizek about shootings in the area of the Lime Lounge in April of 2018 and January of 2019. It claims, “Parizek provided the defamatory statements with actual knowledge that they were false, or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity.”

Attorneys for Lime Lounge also cite a statement made to WHO-HD by Des Moines City Council member Joe Gatto in the lawsuit. Gatto is quoted as saying, “he has dealt with the Lime Lounge before and they refuse to make changes or cooperate.”

The lawsuit alleges that statement to be false, saying Gatto had not dealt with Lime Lounge before and the plaintiffs hadn’t refused to make changes or cooperating with the city.

Federal civil rights violations are also claimed in the lawsuit. It says the defendants used their power as a government entity “in an attempt to revoke or otherwise negatively impact Plaintiff’s liquor license without Due Process of law…”

We reached out to the City of Des Moines for comment on the lawsuit and received a response from City Attorney Jeff Lester. Regarding the lawsuit, he says, “The only thing I can comment on is that the case appears to be an attempt to relitigate Lime Lounge’s previous case that they lost in District Court and before the Court of Appeals and the City will vigorously defend the lawsuit.”

Lester was also able to confirm the city has filed a petition for the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division to revoke the Lime Lounge’s liquor license based on non-compliance of the city’s zoning ordinances.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals will schedule a hearing on the petition.

Read the lawsuit here.

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