Sophie Bolich

Can City Close Infinity Lounge?

Council votes to close troubled nightclub, but bar is already challenging suspension in court.

By - Jun 13th, 2024 02:20 pm

The Infinity Lounge. Photo by Angeline Terry.

It’s the end of the road for Infinity Lounge. At least if the city gets its way.

The Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to close the troubled nightclub, 4001 W. Fond du Lac Ave., which has operated since 2022.

The decision follows a tumultuous year for the nightclub, which was the site of two shootings, a battery cutting and more than 20 other incidents since its last renewal, according to a police report.

Even so, the business, led by Mario Spencer, has no plans to go quietly.

Though it was directed to close on June 11, Infinity Lounge has an active restraining order against the city — the result of a lawsuit brought by the business due to a previous 60-day suspension.

Attorney Michael Maistelman reminded council members of that fact during a recent meeting, where he appeared on behalf of the nightclub.

“We already are in court right now,” he said. “We have a restraining order, allowing us to stay open. That’s been in effect, so the city legally cannot shut us down.”

He further claimed that the Council’s Licenses Committee conducted the latest renewal process in an unlawful manner.

“We object to the committee’s recommendation for the following reasons,” he said, noting that Spencer didn’t receive timely notice of the renewal and that the police report contained “incorrect” and “conclusory” statements.

As of April 2023, Infinity Lounge LLC is the petitioner in a civil lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee regarding the 60-day suspension. In light of the 2024 license nonrenewal, the business plans to file a new lawsuit against the city, Maistelman told Urban Milwaukee.

Next steps for the city could include asking the court to lift the restraining order.

Either way, the saga of Infinity Lounge is likely far from over.

“My client has various options, all of which we are exploring,” Maistelman said.

The attorney’s latest statements echo his earlier comments during the nightclub’s license renewal hearing, which took place on May 29.

“If the city tries to shut us down, we have an order saying we’re allowed to stay open,” he told committee members during the meeting.

Maistelman asked to reschedule the hearing for a date after the court case adjourns, but the committee voted against that request. “Democracy in action, we are going to hear this application today,” said Chairwoman JoCasta Zamarripa.

Over the course of the past year, Infinity Lounge has been the site of two shootings — one of which was included in a 29-item police report for the business.

The lengthy report was a point of concern among committee members, who scrutinized several violent incidents in particular. That includes an aggravated battery on June 7, 2023 and a Jan. 17 shooting, during which a security guard exchanged fire with a disgruntled patron.

Two men have since been arrested in connection to that shooting, which occurred outside of the lounge and injured at least two patrons.

The business was declared a nuisance on Jan. 18.

A second shooting, though not included in the police report, took place at the establishment on April 20, Spencer said.

The police report also includes a handful of noise complaints, six cases of battery and several incidents involving patrons with guns. On several occasions, police were called to the lounge but found no disturbances.

In his remarks to committee members, Spencer focused on the latter category, calling the majority of the police report “bogus.”

But Alderman Scott Spiker took issue with that claim. “Why are there so many fights and so many shootings at this location?” he asked. “It just seems like there’s a lot of violence happening here.”

“It’s not that nothing would be happening without you, but you seem to be drawing certain folks who have weaponry, have beef, get a few drinks in them and then all the stuff in the police report happens.”

“It’s controlled,” Spencer said. “Nothing happens on the inside.”

Spencer highlighted his positive contributions to the community, such as trash pickups, free meals, toy giveaways for kids and other holiday-centered events.

He also explained that he has attempted to collaborate with the police, requesting officers to be stationed outside the lounge or to park a “dummy” squad car to deter potential troublemakers. However, he noted that these requests have been unsuccessful.

“When they’re available, they slide by,” said William Wilson, captain of MPD District 7. “We cannot have a squad park in front of your establishment. Like I said, every tavern would like that. It’s just not feasible.”

The committee also heard testimony from several neighbors.

Lydia Melton said that the lounge has been an ongoing issue for years. “My life is interrupted because of his business,” she said. “[Spencer] is not thinking of what we’re going through. Why do I have to live unhappy, uncomfortable?”

Two additional neighbors shared similar statements.

Area Alderman DiAndre Jackson said he got the sense that most residents in the area object to the establishment. In fact, it became evident even before he was elected.

“I was getting a lot of complaints just doing doors — not even in the seat yet,” he said. “I move for nonrenewal.”

Spiker concluded the two-hour hearing with a motion for nonrenewal based on the police report and testimony from the licensee, neighbors and MPD. There were no objections.

The matter went before the full council on Tuesday, where members voted unanimously for nonrenewal.

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Categories: Food & Drink

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