Thursday, January 29, 2009
This morning about 20 people filed out of Judge Jeffrey Zlatow's courtroom in Tucson City Court hugging and shaking Dave Huff's hand to congratulate him on his win today against the city to remove the red tag placed on his business in mid-October.
The red tag was the result of a series of complaints made by the manager of the Laurence Court apartments next door to the LGBT bar at the corner of Oracle and Prince roads. Arguments between Huff's attorney and the city attorney went back and forth on definitions of unruly behavior and specifics regarding the red tag ordinance.
Zlatow told those in his courtroom that he wasn't able to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the red tag - that would have to be heard in a federal or state court. He had to go by the current law which defines that unruly behavior can be made by a group of five people or more pestering one or more people; and only one person has to make a complaint for a citation to be considered.
Testimony from Woody's bartender Jeffrey Branch conflicts with any definition of unruly behaviors. That October night the bar was hosting a wine tasting, and Branch says they had a keyboardist doing jazz, soul and oldies standards. He described the crowd as traditionally older that night - average age 50.
"We pride ourselves in that we don't have typical bar problems," Branch says.
Besides testimony from Linda Howeth, the apartment manager and her husband, the city relied on a report from a TPD officer that said he heard noise coming from the bar that necessitated the need for the red tag. Problem for the state was that the officer never showed up.
Zlatow told the courtroom crowd: "Remove the tag. The city has not carried its burden."
Outside, just as Huff was asked to describe the red tag fight he was moved to tears.
"It's been an ordeal," he says.
"It's taken a personal toll on my lover and me. I hope nobody has to go through this."
Huff says his case is a good example of why these ordinances don't work and why they are unconstitutional by allowing one person to make statements that can potentially ruin someone's business or life.
When asked how he might respond in the future if the apartment manager complains again, Huff says, "I can't respond to someone who isn't telling the truth."
Huff added that he doesn't feel safe, like he's the victim of a rape and the perpetrator has been released.