United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
NATHANIEL BRACY d/b/a THE TOY BOX and GULF COAST AMUSEMENT SERVICES, LLC, Plaintiffs,
THE CITY OF PRICHARD, ALABAMA, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, Defendant.
V. S. GRANADE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant City of
Prichard's Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in
Support (Docs. 36 & 37), Plaintiffs Nathanial Bracy d/b/a
The Toy Box and Gulf Coast Amusement Services, LLC's
Response and supporting documents (Docs. 43, 44, 45 &
47), and Defendant's Reply (Doc. 49). For the reasons
stated below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is
due to be granted.
case arises from allegations that the City of Prichard
violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment to the Constitution when it denied business
licenses to operate Plaintiffs' two separate nightclubs.
One establishment, The Toy Box, was owned by Nathaniel Bracy
(“Bracy”). (Doc. 43, p. 2 ¶ 6). The other
establishment, Suga's, was managed by Tommie Holmes
(“Holmes”), a member of Gulf Coast Amusement
Services, LLC (“Gulf Coast”). (Doc. 37, p .1).
Bracy and Holmes acted as business partners in operating both
clubs. (Doc. 47, p. 4).
The Toy Box
2011, Bracy began assisting in the operation of Club
Seduction, a nightclub located in Prichard. (Doc. 43, p. 2
¶ 4). Bracy was not the owner of Club Seduction. (Doc.
43, p. 1 ¶ 2).
2012, Club Seduction d/b/a The Toy Box filed an application
for a business license renewal. (Doc. 43, p. 2 ¶ 6).
Bracy was listed as the owner of the business on the renewal
application. (Doc. 43, p. 2 ¶ 6). Though Bracy listed
himself as the owner on the renewal application, Bracy had
not filed a change of ownership form with Defendant prior to
filing the renewal application. (Doc. 37, p. 8).
Additionally, at the time Bracy filed the renewal application
listing himself as the owner, Defendant had yet to receive a
new application for a business license in connection with
Club Seduction or The Toy Box. Id. While Bracy notes
the renewal application gave notice that Club Seduction was
operating under a new name, The Toy Box, and with a new
owner, Nathaniel Bracy, (Doc. 43, p. 2 ¶ 6), Defendant
viewed Bracy's business license renewal as being issued
to the former owners, the Smiths, since Bracy had not filed a
change of ownership form before he filed the renewal
application. (Doc. 37, p. 8).
March 2013, Defendant issued Bracy a citation for operating
the business without a license. (Doc. 43, p. 4 ¶ 13).
Following the issuance of the citation, Bracy requested that
he be placed on the City Council agenda to request a business
license for The Toy Box. (Doc. 43, p. 4 ¶ 14). Bracy
presented his request for the business license on April 4,
2013. (Doc. 43, p. 4 ¶ 15). On April 10, 2013, former
City Attorney Jerome Carter (“Carter”) prepared a
report recommending that Bracy's request for the business
license be denied. (Doc. 43, p. 4-5 ¶ 16). On April 11,
2013, Bracy's request for the business license in
connection with the Toy Box came before the City Council
again, and the City Council unanimously denied the request
based upon Carter's recommendation. (Doc. 43, p. 5
¶¶ 18-19). Bracy did not file an appeal. (Doc. 43,
p. 5 ¶ 20).
Gulf Coast d/b/a Suga's
Box shut down some time in 2013, and the business transferred
to Suga's. (Doc. 49-1, pp. 3-4) Mr. Holmes, who had worked
at The Toy Box, testified that he visited Prichard City Hall
in 2014 to obtain a business license for Suga's. (Doc.
43, p. 6-7 ¶ 25). According to Holmes, he spoke with
Racquel Jones (“Jones”), former City of Prichard
Business License Investigator, during January, March, and May
of 2014 regarding a business license in connection with
Suga's. (Doc. 37, p. 10). However, Jones does not
remember ever conversing with Holmes about Suga's
business license. Id. Jones searched the records of
the City of Prichard and has been unable to locate any
business application made by Holmes in connection with
Suga's. (Doc. 43, p. 7 ¶ 26). Additionally, Jones is
not aware of any requests made by Holmes to appear before the
Prichard City Council to request a business license be issued
to Suga's. (Doc. 43, p. 7 ¶ 27). Furthermore, Jones
is not aware of any appeal of any denial of a request for a
business license by Holmes for Suga's. (Doc. 43, p. 7
¶ 27). Suga's ceased operation on August 14, 2014.
(Doc. 49-2, pp. 8-9).
filed their Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief
on August 15, 2016. (Doc. 1).
Standard of Review for Summary Judgment
judgment should be granted only if “there is no issue
as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The
party seeking summary judgment bears “the initial
burden to show the district court, by reference to materials
on file, that there are no genuine issues of material fact
that should be decided at trial.” Clark v. Coats
& Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991).
Once the moving party has satisfied its responsibility, the
burden shifts to the nonmoving party to show the existence of
a genuine issue of material fact. Id. “If the
nonmoving party fails to make ‘a sufficient showing on
an essential element of her case with respect to which she
has the burden of proof, ' the moving party is entitled
to summary judgment.” Id. (quoting Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986) (footnote
omitted)). “In reviewing whether the nonmoving party
has met its burden, the court must stop short of weighing the
evidence and making credibility determination of the truth of
the matter. Instead, evidence of the non-movant is to be
believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in
his favor.” Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen,
965 F.2d 994, 999 (11th Cir. 1992) (internal citations and
quotations omitted). The mere existence, however, of any
factual dispute will not necessarily compel denial of a
motion for summary judgment; rather, only material factual
disputes preclude entry of summary judgment. Lofton v.
Secretary of Dep‘t of Children and Family Servs.,
358 F.3d 804, 809 (11th Cir. 2004).