Vancouver Facing $22.5 Million Suit Over Closure Of Night Club For Fire Code Violations

The owners of a Vancouver nightclub are suing the city, its fire chief, and four other parties for $22.5 million claiming they conspired to put it out of business because it catered to Black and Hispanic communities.

Adrian Kallimanis and Jose Parra, owners of the now closed Q Nightclub and Lounge, filed suit in US District Court claiming racial prejudice is what prompted the defendants to find pretexts, including fire code violations, to put the club out of business.

Named as defendants are: the City of Vancouver, Fire Chief Joseph Molina, Mayor Tim Leavitt, Police Chief James McElvain, director of the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Control Board Rick Garza, and C Tran, the regional transit authority. According to The Columbian, the club was closed due to the lack of a functioning secondary means of egress.

According to the complaint:

  • The Q officially opened for business on or around January 29, 2015 and began operating a nightclub and lounge at 704 Main Street, Vancouver, Washington.
  • Throughout the course of 2015, the Defendants began to harass the Q by accusing their patrons of criminal activity, showing up during hours of business to harass Q’s patrons, and wrongfully attempting to associate Q with any criminal activity or complaints in the downtown Vancouver area. This significantly disrupted Q’s business.
  • In addition, C-Tran began constructing a bus rapid transit center, which blocked access to the rear exit of the Q.
  • Subsequently, the Defendants, by and through their agents began notifying the Q that because of C-Tran’s redevelopment project, Q could no longer meet the required assembly occupancy regulation and therefore the City would immediately begin enforcement proceedings to close Q’s business.
  • Despite Q’s efforts to work with the Defendants to become compliant with the regulations, the Defendants would not work with Plaintiffs to solve the problem. As a result, the Defendants shut the Q down.
  • Not surprisingly, after Q was shut down, C-Tran discontinued its project.

The suit contains 11 counts:

  • Race discrimination – 42 U.S.C. §1981
  • 14th Amendment Due process – Liberty Interest – 42 U.S.C. § 1983
  • 14th Amendment Due Process – Property Interest – 42 U.S.C. § 1983
  • 14th Amendment Equal Protection – 42 U.S.C. § 1983
  • First Amendment – Free Speech/Expression – 42 U.S.C. § 1983
  • First Amendment – Freedom of Association – 42 U.S.C. § 1983
  • Conspiracy to interfere with civil rights – 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3)
  • Neglect to prevent interference with civil rights – 42 U.S.C. § 1986
  • Violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – 42 U.S.C. § 2000d
  • Intentional interference with economic relations
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress

The Columbian quoted assistant city attorney Daniel Lloyd as saying:

  • The complaint filed by the Q Nightclub has no legal or factual merit.
  • Specifically, the Q Club was given multiple opportunities to remain an open business by making modifications required to comply with building code, but chose not to do so.
  • The allegations that the city did anything for reasons related to the race of its patrons, or that there was any sort of “conspiracy,” are outright frivolous.
  • The city will vigorously defend this case.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Q Nightclub and Lounge v Vancouver

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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