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Economy & Business

Bar Owners Sue After Police Command Center Closed Their Business

Swiish Bar and Grill
(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

The owners of Swiish Bar and Grill in Jennings didn’t suffer broken glass or looting during the unrest following Michael Brown’s death, but they still took a big loss.

That’s because state and local law enforcement ordered the business closed so that the police command center could be staged just outside the bar. Swiish Bar and Grill at 8021 West Florissant Ave., is just down the street from where protests were taking place in Ferguson. It remained closed for 17 days.

Now owners Corey and ChantelleNickson-Clarkare suing the governor’s office, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County and the cities of Jennings and Ferguson. The couple is asking for more than $25,000 in damages.

The Nickson-Clark’s attorney, Daniel Herman, said no one offered to compensate the owners.

"My clients, throughout the 17 days they were forced to be closed, called everybody from the chief of police in Jennings and Ferguson, all the way up to the office of the governor, and were explicitly told that in no way would any of those government agencies give them any money at all," he said.

Herman said governments are required to pay property owners for the use of their land or taking of their land, even in emergencies.

"They lost a substantial amount of revenue from not being able to bring business in the door. They lost substantial food stocks," he said. "They weren’t able to pay employees who lost a substantial amount of income because they weren’t able to work for two weeks."

A spokeswoman in the Missouri Attorney General’s office said she could not comment on pending litigation. The attorney who represents Jennings said she could not comment because the city had not been served yet. Officials with St. Louis County and Ferguson did not immediately return calls.

The lawsuit is one of several that has stemmed from the protests and unrest in Ferguson:

  • White et al. vs. Jackson et al.: A federal civil rights case over the way police treated Ferguson residents between August 11-13. (Read about the case here.)
  • Templeton et al. vs. Dotson et al.: Federal civil rights case against the Unified Command. Plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction against the use of tear gas on protesters except in dire circumstances and with adequate warning and a requirement that officers wear name tags.
  • Abdullah et al. vs. St. Louis County et al.:  Preliminary injunction against enforcement of the so-called "five-second rule" was granted on Oct. 6. The police had used the rule as a way to prevent protesters from standing still. The city of Ferguson reached a consent order with the court about enforcement in November. Plaintiffs are still seeking a permanent injunction. A hearing in the case is scheduled for some time later this month.
  • Hussein vs. St. Louis County et al.: Filed on behalf of Mustafa Hussein, a live-streamer with Argus News. A permanent injunction was issued against Ferguson, St. Louis County and Missouri State Highway Patrol on November 21, 2014, to prevent those entities from blocking Hussein and others from filming police unless their actions prevented law enforcement from doing their duties.  The case is closed.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

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