Police in a small Pennsylvania Township are targeting and harassing a local self-proclaimed biker bar. The owner claims to have been threatened directly and State Police Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE) is attempting to shut down the establishment. State agency discrimination against the motorcycle community is constitutionally prohibited. Selective enforcement of ordinances as a pretext to “shut the place down” based on discriminatory beliefs about motorcyclists is an injustice that demands a remedy.
Military Family Owned Biker Bar
Michelle Perrine operate JD’s Tap House in Meadsville Township, Pennsylvania. It’s a biker bar that holds bike nights and charity events like many bars around the country. The Perrines are also a military family. Michelle says, “My husband [Dan] is a Vet, my daughter is Active Military and we support Bike Clubs and our Veterans.”
JD’s Tap House sometimes has live music and “Perrine had been issued a zoning variance by the West Mead Zoning Authority in March. According to the variance, Perrine was allowed to host bands on the property between May 1 and Sept. 30, between the hours of 2 and 10 p.m.” (See “Bar owner facing trial over noise violations“, Meadville Tribune, October 28, 2014)
Police Use Noise Complaints from ONE Person as a Pretext to Try to Shut Bar Down.
Despite this approval, since 2013 there has been a rash of complaints from one local resident and one local politician, Township Supervisor Michael Jordan.
According to Perrine, she spoke with the resident filing the repetitive complaints against JD’s Tap House. This individual was clear that she would do everything she could to “shut the place down“, says Perrine. This escalated into dozens of complaints from this seemingly vindictive individual over the last two years. Later, when being served a subpoena, this individual made it clear that she didn’t want bikers in her neighborhood.
These complaints have been used by LCE to engage in a campaign of harassment even though JD’s is operating within the allotted allowable time slots.
Reporting LCE Threat to Owners Children Leads to Increased Harassment
Despite being issued zoning approval, the campaign of LCE harassment began on July 1, 2013. Michelle received a visit from Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE), a division of the State Police, where she was, in her estimation, threatened by an LCE officer. Michelle writes to the MPP:
Here is the exact threat..I received a visit from an LCE enforcement officer…he stated that if I had music for that Bike Night I would be arrested. He asked me for..and I gave him..My license, SS Card, address, and birth date. He tapped himself on his heart and said, “you know Michelle, the only thing worse than going to Jail, would be if something were to happen to one of my children.” I took off my sunglasses, pushed them across the table in his direction and stated, “are you threatening my children?” He responded with “No” .. That occurred on July 1st 2013.
I called the State Police Ethics Commission on July 7th and asked them a general question regarding the LCE’s behavior. I was asked to divulge who the officer was. After I was promised no retribution, I told them his name. That’s when all of this fun started (they continually blasted me with citations).”
Further evidence seems to validate the suspicion that JD’s Tap House is a target of agency harassment. Perrine articulates a strange incident in which, in her words:
“The LCE told me – after I asked if I could meet with this neighbor that “if I approached this neighbor or any of my agents approached this neighbor, that I would go to jail for terroristic threats.” Perrine says, “I have been told that I would be arrested for terroristic threats if bikers drive down a certain road.”
The Local Police told me to try to keep “my bikers off a side road where the neighbor complaining lives”….Perrine stresses, “I have never had any difficulties with the local police department– they have never even been called to my bar for any disturbances… It’s been strictly the LCE working in cooperation with the Local Politicians…”
The Owner Faces Criminal Charges
The LCE used these complaints to justify misdemeanor criminal charges against Michelle Perrine for disturbing the peace. Local news media reported on the criminal charges and announced the upcoming trial in Spring 2015. (See “Bar owner facing trial over noise violations“, Meadville Tribune, October 28, 2014).
During a preliminary hearing to determine whether criminal charges would be filed, the LCE officer that Perrine says initially threatened her “said he wasn’t aware of the zoning variance” that legally permitted music at JD’s Tap House. This officer also confirmed that all complaints had been filed by a local resident and West Mead Township Supervisor Michael Jordan.
[LCE Officer] Nicholson said the noise complaints against Perrine were lodged by the McQueens and Jordan…Konzel then called Jordan as a witness. When she asked Jordan if he ever lodged a noise complaint with the LCE, Jordan said, “No.”
Under oath, Mr. Jordan’s testimony appears to be false. The following document is an investigation report filed August 12, 2014 by LCE officer Nicholson validating that Mr. Jordan indeed was the original complainant against JD’s Tap House.
Perrine, on the day of the trial in May 2015, pled no contest in order to receive a reduced $100 fine. On December 14th LCE sent Michelle a notice to be prepared to show cause why her license should not be revoked and why she should not be fined because she was found guilty of a crime (the reduced fine plea).
Despite prohibitions against discrimination, many times owners of establishments are hesitant to stand up against authorities because the results of harassment are real and tangible. The end result is “no colors” policies and less access to public places. The Perrines estimate that they have lost 39% of their income since this harassment began. Even though they refuse to deny bikers access, the financial impact resulting from this campaign of harassment may ultimately cause them to shut their doors having the same end result.
What to Take Away From All of This
Police and Liquor Control harassment of any establishment because they choose to serve bikers is discrimination and is prohibited. Utilizing a pretext like noise violations, particularly considering the often prejudicial source of those complaints as claimed in this case, does not excuse or permit this discrimination. Selective enforcement of the law also violates the equal protections guaranteed by the Constitution.
If nothing is done to combat this type of discrimination, if bikers don’t unite at the grassroots level and lobby for change, then motorcyclists will continue to lose their rights base at an accelerated pace. The right to freely associate and express that association is a fundamental liberty that must be fought for in order that it be preserved.
Currently that right is being taken away from motorcyclists one establishment at a time. It’s time to mobilize and use the democratic process and the power of numbers to take them all back.