Appeals court upholds nightclub safety crackdown

CLEVELAND (AP) - An appeals court has upheld the city's role in shutting down a nightclub during a safety crackdown in the Flats riverfront entertainment district.
The 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals has overturned a $345,000 jury verdict against the city in a lawsuit filed by the former owners of the Heaven and Earth nightclub.
The owners claimed they were unfairly targeted by the city task force, which was trying to crack down on drug use and underage drinking in the Flats after five people drowned in the Cuyahoga River in 2000.
City officials raided the bar on March 2, 2001, and boarded up the doors after finding 35 fire and safety violations but no drugs or underage drinkers.
A judge reopened Heaven and Earth a week later. But the bad publicity scared off a prospective buyer, who backed out of a $400,000 contract and later agreed to pay $129,000.
After selling the bar, former owners John Michalak and Dan Bliss sued the city for the difference and for other lost revenue, and they won a jury trial in October.
But in a ruling Thursday, the appeals court said the case never should have gone to trial.
Steve Ott, a lawyer for the owners, said most of the code violations were minor, and the city didn't need to shut down the bar. He said his next step would be an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)