Studio 4 fined, liquor license suspended

BY SARA LYNNE THELEN
Daily News Editor
Published July 27, 2008

Regulars at Studio 4, the dance club on Fourth Avenue, might want to reconsider their plans for the first weekend of fall term.

Per suspension of its liquor license, the venue won’t be serving alcohol Sept. 4-6 and Thanksgiving weekend, from Nov. 27-29. In addition to the suspension during these profitable weekends, Studio 4 was fined $2,200 last Tuesday because of five outstanding charges filed against the club by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and the Ann Arbor Police Department.

Ken Wozniak, the director of the executive services division of the Michigan LCC, said Studio 4’s reputation for violations is “fairly significant, in terms of numbers,” when compared to other clubs in Ann Arbor and Michigan.

The five most recent complaints, all filed against the club owner and employees between 2007 and 2008, include possession of illegal weapons, harassment of customers, selling liquor to intoxicated people and minors and assault and battery, according to Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Growth.

One of the more severe violations involves a brawl outside the club last August that involved more than 200 people and resulted in the stabbing of an Ypsilanti man.

The suspension of the license during two of the club’s two busiest weekends of the year follows up the more than $7,100 in fines that the club has incurred for breaking more than 15 state laws since 2001. The club has been cited for overcrowding, failure to cooperate with the Ann Arbor Police Department, inaccurate sales records and bouncing checks.

Studio 4 manager Jeff Mangray did not return calls or e-mails for comment.

About 50 times per year, Wozniak said, the Michigan LCC will revoke a liquor license permanently. He said he couldn’t predict if Studio 4’s would be taken away.

Mary Jo Desprez, a member of the Ann Arbor Campus Community Conversations -- a University Health Service organization that works with the AAPD and city officials against harmful drinking in the community -- said that the club's far-reaching popularity makes it more difficult to monitor.

"It's difficult to pinpoint to what extent this is a campus issue vs. a community issue," she said. "Studio 4 is not just a bar for students, it's a bar that anyone can go to."

City Councilmember Joan Lowenstein (D-Ward 2) said that the AAPD and the city attorney’s office has considered declaring the bar a public nuisance.

“There have been numerous incidents that were worrisome, particularly of underage drinking and of excessive drinking,” she said.

Wozniak said that the decision to suspend Studio 4’s license was agreed upon by the Michigan LCC, the city attorney’s office and the AAPD.

City Attorney Stephen Postema declined to predict whether the bar would be shut down, but said that the license suspension represents the city losing its patience.

“Students say that the city’s cracking down on bars and this and that, but it’s really a social problem,” Postema said. “Sure it's fun to go to the bar, but it's not fun where there’s assaults afterwards. It’s not part of the deal.”