Nightclub suing Mississippi mayor, aldermen and police chief for $1 million. Owners say city trying to ‘unlawfully’ shut them down.

Published 4:01 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The owners of a Mississippi nightclub are suing the Vicksburg mayor, aldermen and police chief for violation of due process, malicious prosecution and defamation.

The suit was filed this week in Warren County Circuit Court by plaintiffs Refined South Restaurant Group LLC and Jean-Jacques Parmegiani and Kara Parmegiani, owners of Jacque’s nightclub in Vicksburg. The plaintiffs are suing George Flaggs Jr., mayor; Alex Monsour and Michael Mayfield, aldermen; and Penny Jones, police chief, for damages of at least $1 million related to the ongoing legal battle that left the nightclub shuttered for four months.

In the request for a jury trial, the plaintiffs outline what they see as a systematic effort by city officials to shut down the nightclub without providing due process.

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“Defendants’ actions have impaired plaintiff’s property rights by shutting down business without providing Plaintiffs sufficient notice or sufficient opportunity to object,” the suit states. Furthermore, the due process clause of the 14th Amendment was violated by the city “requesting a complete shutdown of (the) business via (Temporary Restraining Order) with no time limits amounting to an indefinite temporary injunction.”

In July, the city shut down the nightclub located at 1320 Levee St. following a series of shots fired incidents in the parking lot, reported fights inside the business, and reported underage patrons.

The legal battle moved to Sunflower County Chancery Court, where a judge issued a preliminary injunction suspending the operations of the bar until a final hearing could be held. The owners of the nightclub and the owners of The Mulberry Vicksburg, which rents space to the Parmegianis for the bar, filed a motion to dissolve the injunction, which was granted last week.

In her ruling dissolving the injunction, Chancellor Debra Giles said although the intention of the order was to allow parties a time to set a final hearing, “the (temporary restraining order) provided the City of Vicksburg with no incentive to seek setting a final hearing on the merits.”

In the $1 million suit filed this week, the plaintiffs say the city used the legal process “to unlawfully shut down Plaintiffs’ business.”

The suit cites “a lack of sufficient notice and time to prepare” for the Aug. 4 hearing in which the city obtained a temporary restraining order. Moreover, the suit says, the city officials “grossly exaggerated the number and seriousness of disturbances that have occurred on the property” and that “there is no evidence to support the City’s claims that Jacques’ management or personnel caused or contributed to any disturbances that have occurred.”

The suit also says the number of security incidents Jacques’ has experienced are “miniscule when compared to the number of patrons,” adding the nightclub routine sees 1,000 to 1,200 patrons per week. The suit cites 15 incidents in a seven-month span relating to its operations – “a mere .002 percent of (the 8,126) police reports generated” during that span.

The suit addresses two specific incidents at the nightclub, occurring on May 5 and July 4.

In the first incident, two Jacques’ security officers were shot “while a Vicksburg Police Department patrol car was sitting in the parking lot.” The suit goes on to say that one of the security guards was attempting to break up an argument between a group of individuals who were not patrons of the bar and a group of patrons who had just left the nightclub.

“Because the situation was escalating, (the security guard) waved to the VPD officer for assistance … despite having seen the gun and hearing the shots, the VPD officer still did not assist (security guards).”

In the July 4 incident, the suit says police were called to assist with troublemakers firing their guns into the air some 300 yards away from the nightclub, at the far end of the adjacent parking lot. None were patrons of the club.

“Further, Police Chief Jones knew these individuals were shooting randomly about town six hours earlier when she sent a text to (the) Jacques’ Manager at 6:30 p.m. stating they were shooting ‘at Ramon’s grandmothers house.’”

And, the suit says, “although the police chief anticipated that they might cause trouble that weekend at Jacques’, she chose not to do anything to get them off the streets or to stop them.”

Moreover, the suit says the “similar, and in some cases worse, incidents have occurred at other establishments that remain open to this day.”

The plaintiffs have asked for a jury trial and damages.

Read the full suit here.