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Bracy v. The City of Prichard

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 9, 2017

NATHANIEL BRACY d/b/a THE TOY BOX and GULF COAST AMUSEMENT SERVICES, LLC, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF PRICHARD, ALABAMA, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          CALLIE V. S. GRANADE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This 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.

         I. Background

         This 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).

         A. The Toy Box

         In 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).

         In May 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).

         In 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).

         B. Gulf Coast d/b/a Suga's

         The Toy Box shut down some time in 2013, and the business transferred to Suga's. (Doc. 49-1, pp. 3-4) Mr. Holmes[1], 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).

         Plaintiffs filed their Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief on August 15, 2016. (Doc. 1).

         II. Standard of Review for Summary Judgment

         Summary 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).

         III. ...


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