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Jammin Entertainment Complex v. City of New York

August 9, 2007

JAMMIN ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEX ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garaufis, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiffs run an entertainment venue called Cultural Performing Arts Center ("CPAC") that hosts reggae and other musical performances, in addition to being a "cultural performing arts center which hosts plays, wedding receptions, and political discussions relating to the Caribbean community in Brooklyn, New York." (Second Supplemental Affidavit of George Crooks in Further Support of Plaintiffs' Application for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction ("Pls. Second Suppl. Aff.") at 1.) Plaintiffs have brought suit under 42 U.S.C § 1983 against the City of New York and nine members of the New York City Police Department ("NYPD") alleging a years-long campaign by the NYPD to harass and maliciously prosecute them through a series of events that includes Defendants' having ticketed Plaintiffs without justification, set up roadblocks to prevent the patrons from accessing the venue, and filed false charges against Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants' "pattern of harassment has been with one goal in mind: to drive CPAC out of business and to prevent the peaceful assembly of primarily Black people and Black people from the Caribbean who wish to openly associate with each other." (Second Amended Complaint ¶ 12.)

The court is now presented with Plaintiffs' application pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 65 for a temporary restraining order ("TRO") and preliminary injunction seeking to "1) enjoin the defendants from setting up any roadblocks at CPAC or in close proximity to CPAC without a legitimate or rational basis for doing so; and 2) enjoin defendants from preventing or discouraging patrons from attending any lawful events at CPAC." (Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs' Application for a Temporary Restraining Order and a Preliminary Injunction ("Pl. Mem.") at 2.)

For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' application for preliminary injunctive relief is DENIED in its entirety. Should future circumstances arise, such as establishment of sobriety or other roadblocks or other conditions that Plaintiffs believe improperly limit Plaintiffs in exercising their constitutional rights, they may reapply to the court for injunctive relief. Furthermore, the court directs that discovery be expedited and that particular attention be focused on, inter alia, the extent to which police presence and activities are the result of complaints and requests made by members of the community for intervention, such as 911 and 311 calls and community board and police community council meetings.

I. Background

Plaintiffs are four individuals, George Crooks ("Crooks"), Danraj Appan ("Appan"), William Freeman ("Freeman"), and Tamisha Linsday ("Lindsay"), and a privately owned company called Jammin Entertainment Complex d/b/a Cultural Performing Arts Center ("CPAC") (collectively, "Plaintiffs"). Plaintiffs have brought this action against the City of New York and nine city employees in their individual capacities, none of whom are identified in the Complaint with their first names: Sergeant Abassi, Captain Nikas, Sergeant Burke, Officer Redmond, and John Does I through V (collectively, "Defendants"). Plaintiffs have brought suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants "harassed and maliciously prosecuted them, falsely arrested and imprisoned them, maliciously abused criminal and civil process against them, violated their due process rights, violated their liberty interest rights, and maliciously violated their equal protection and commercial rights." (Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint ("2d Am. Compl.") ¶ 1.) Plaintiffs further allege that Defendants violated these rights because Plaintiffs are of "black Carribean heritage, national origin and alienage, and because CPAC's patrons are primarily of black Carribean heritage, alienage and national origin." (Id.)

Plaintiff Crooks, the general manager of CPAC, is identified as being of Jamaican national origin and alienage. (Id. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff Freeman, the sole owner of Jammin Entertainment Complex, which owns CPAC, is identified as African American. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff Appan, an independent promoter who at relevant times in the Complaint attempted to stage an event at CPAC, is identified as being of Guyanese national origin and alienage. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff Lindsay, a bartender at CPAC, is identified as being of Jamaican national origin and alienage. (Id. ¶ 7.)

Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint alleges in pertinent part as follows:

A.) In 2004, Jammin Entertainment Complex received a permit and license to host a reggae concert the night of January 1, 2005 at 10:00 p.m., extending into the early morning hours of January 2, 2005. (2d Am. Compl. ¶ 10(a).) Plaintiffs were given a Building Department permit for in-progress construction, a one-day temporary public assembly permit, and a one-day liquor license from the State Liquor Licensing Authority ("Liquor Authority"). (Id.) At about 2:00 a.m. on January 2, 2005, Defendant Abassi and other officers from the NYPD arrived at CPAC to inspect Plaintiffs' permits and licenses. Defendant Abassi instructed Defendant Redmond to issue four tickets for warehousing alcohol, altering building construction, allowing on-premise alcohol consumption, and failing to have a certificate of occupancy ("CO"). (Id. ¶ 10(b).) These tickets were dismissed on February 16, 2005. (Id. ¶ 10(d).) Plaintiffs state that "[o]n information and belief, defendants have rarely, if ever, undertaken such actions against other establishments in Brooklyn that do not cater primarily to Black and Caribbean clientele, and which are not owned and operated by Black people from [the] Caribbean." (Id. ¶ 10(c).)

B.) One month later, Plaintiffs again applied for two one-day liquor licenses from the Liquor Authority, which were both denied because of a letter the Liquor Authority received from the NYPD "alleging that the venue was a 'focal point' of criminal activity." (Id. ¶ 10(e).) From March 2005 through July 2005, "police officers visited CPAC each night it was open for business and each visit interrupted business for 1 to 2 hours." (Id. ¶ 10(g).)

C.) In August 2005, Plaintiffs obtained a public assembly permit for a CPAC event to be held on August 21, 2005 (id. ¶ 10(h)), notified the local NYPD precinct weeks in advance (id. ¶ 10(i)), faxed copies of the permit and licenses to the precinct (id. ¶ 10(j)), met with a police officer from the Community Affairs Department on premises to give an examination of the permit and licenses (id.), and, three days before the event, escorted another police officer through the premises for a final walk through and inspection (id. ¶ 10(k)). Despite these steps, Defendant Abassi and a "team of police officers in trucks" visited CPAC and stated that "if the event was not cancelled, the promoter would be arrested and all the equipment would be seized," evidently because the event's promotional flyers contained "sparingly dressed women." (Id. ¶ 10(l).)

D.) Five months later, CPAC began to receive a flurry of tickets: (1) On January 1, 2006, officers issued a ticket citing disorderly premises, even though the club was closed at the time (id. ¶ 10(m)); (2) On January 21, 2006, officers issued a ticket that was later dismissed for failure to display a liquor license, even though a license was fully displayed in a visible area (id. ¶ 10(n)); (3) On February 11, 2006, Defendant Redmond issued four tickets for disorderly premises, unreasonable noise, posting flyers illegally, and failure to have a liquor license (id. ¶ 10(o)); (4) On February 17, 2006, Defendant Burke instructed a Liquor Authority officer to purchase a beer and give the beer to an undercover officer posing as a minor, who then ticketed the bartender, Plaintiff Lindsay, for serving alcohol to a minor (id. ¶ 10(p)); and (5) On February 25, 2006, officers issued a ticket to Plaintiff Lindsay for serving alcohol to a minor. The drink was a mixture of orange and cranberry juices, and the ticket was dismissed on the merits (id. ¶ 10(q)).

E.) Furthermore: (1) In January and February 2006, officers set up roadblocks on all weekends CPAC was open and told customers the club was closed (id. ¶ 10(r)); (2) In May 2006, Defendant Redmond signed a false affidavit that CPAC was operating without a liquor license as part of a nuisance abatement claim (id. ¶ 10(s)); (3) On September 2, 2006, officers issued "bogus" tickets for disorderly premises and unreasonable noise, which were promptly dismissed (id. ¶ 10(t)); and (4) the NYPD filed charges with the Liquor Authority in a still-pending case to revoke CPAC's liquor license (id. ¶ 10(u)).

F.) The Second Amended Complaint goes on to allege further visits, disruptions and tickets by NYPD from September through December 2006. (Id. ΒΆΒΆ 10(v-y).) In one incident that is alleged by Defendants, officers expelled patrons, shut down the club and, when staff members refused to comply "citing failure by police officers to provide an order authorizing such a ...


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