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Monday, January 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 18.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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Rick Flowers of R Place sues city of Madison, alleging racial bias
R Place buzzes with customers in this photo published in a May 2010 <a href=><i>Isthmus</i> cover story</a> by Rich Albertoni.
R Place buzzes with customers in this photo published in a May 2010 Isthmus cover story by Rich Albertoni.
Credit:Jake Naughton

Rick Flowers, owner of R Place on Park, has launched a civil action in U.S. District Court against the city of Madison, Police Chief Noble Wray, the city clerk and other defendants, alleging official misconduct, abuse of authority and violation of hisconstitutional rights.

The suit seeks injunctions against alleged heavy-handed sanctions against the troubled tavern at 1821 S. Park, and bias against its African American and Hispanic clientele, drawn from the Bram's Addition neighborhood.

The filing appears to be pushback against what it characterizes as a longstanding effort to revoke and deny the tavern's Class B combination liquor and beer licenses, the imposition of extensive security plans and prohibitive parking restrictions nearby that hamper the ability of R Place to continue doing business.

The suit alleges that because of its African American ownership and clientele, R Place has been singled out for penalties that are disproportionate to those levied against a handful of other establishments in the city that have also been the focus of police calls for violent incidents involving guns, knives and other weapons.

Among the suit's charges: The defendants have exhibited a "pattern of denying licenses to neighborhoods with significant African American populations" in violation of "Flowers' individual rights and his rights as a member of a protected class," including his rights to free speech, freedom of association, due process and equal treatment under the law, because "he is the only African American licensee operating the only establishment in the City of Madison where the majority of patrons are African American."

Citing extensive and detailed exhibits, the suit contends violent incidents involving guns, knives and other weapons at other taverns have met with lighter police and alcohol licensing penalties that suggest racial bias on the part of the lawsuit's defendants, in violation of Flowers' constitutional rights.

Alleging these practices and patterns have been discriminatory toward Flowers as an African American individual and to African Americans as a protected class, the lawsuit seeks a trial by jury.

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