A federal lawsuit has been filed challenging the Alcohol License and Review Committee’s 90-day suspension of Seven, a west-side hip-hop club.

Seven’s liquor license has been suspended since Dec. 20, 2003 due to a Sept. 6, 2003 incident involving fights and gunplay. The license will be reinstated beginning March 20.

Michael Hodges, the club’s owner, is suing the ALRC on accounts that the license suspension was discriminatory and singled him out for selective enforcement because he is African American, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Hodge’s legal representation, attorney Rick Petri, was unavailable for comment.

ALRC member Judy Olson said she feels the ALRC’s decision to suspend the license was not based upon race, but on prior complaints and problems and because of a recommendation from the City Attorney.

Seven, formally Club Hilltop, has faced difficulties in the past including other liquor suspensions and a history of fighting and violence at the club.

One of these incidents occurred last June when the city of Madison renewed all liquor licenses. Seven’s license, however, was not renewed. Instead, the city and legal representation agreed on a 90-day license suspension due to the problems.

Following this suspension, Seven was able to reopen Sept. 6. Due to fights and gunplay outside the club that night, however, the license was suspended again.

“The best thing to do was to begin the suspension retroactively,” Olson said, adding that the majority of ALRC members agreed the city’s complaint was accurate.

In light of the suspension, Seven closed voluntarily.

“No violations have occurred since the 90-day suspension,” Olson added.

Police were unavailable for comment regarding the matter. However, many local bar owners agree with the city’s actions.

“At some point the owner of the establishment has to be responsible for what is going on inside or outside,” assistant manager of Blue Moon Bar and Grill Doug Brown said.

Brown stressed the importance of liquor licenses but commented on the questionable actions of the ALRC concerning issues like the number of bar stools inside a bar and the cost of liquor licenses.

The decision to revoke the license was voted 4-2 in the committee. The Dec. 20-March 20 liquor suspension was voted Wed, Jan. 28 after two delayed meetings in December.

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