By joe gorman
The former owner of the Coconut Grove on South Avenue sued the city for more than $1 million in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio this week, claiming his civil rights were violated when the city shut the bar down last year.
Sam Moffie, who also owns a bar in Austintown, claimed in his lawsuit that city officials had meetings about his bar without him present in 2011 and that they failed to link alleged criminal wrongdoing at the bar to him.
Additionally, Moffie claims when he was arrested Nov. 6, 2012, by Youngstown Police Vice Squad members at the Mahoning Avenue bar he owns, they harassed him in front of customers and in a squad car on the way to the Mahoning County jail.
City officials in 2012 tried to close the South Avenue bar because they received several complaints about crime there from residents, and there was a homicide in the bar’s parking lot in October.
The bar lost its liquor license and was in the process of appealing it in November 2012 when the vice squad raided it and took all the liquor because it still was open.
Moffie was arrested two nights later.
In January, he entered a guilty plea in Youngstown Municipal Court to a charge of unauthorized use of liquor, the suit said.
Moffie claims the city unlawfully searched his business and detained him. He said in his suit because of the city’s actions, he has suffered injuries and damages to his reputation as well as embarrassment and economic losses.
The suit says the city acted recklessly and did not train its employees properly.
Besides several police officers named as John Doe, the suit also names city council and the council president at the time as defendants.
Law Director Anthony Farris said he has not seen the suit yet and declined to comment.
He did say, however, the city was successful in its action to have the bar denied its liquor license.
Moffie said he looks forward to his day in court. “The people of Youngstown need to know that their leaders should be held accountable to the U.S. Constitution,” he said.