Colorful Memphis businessman George Miller stands ready to do what he's always done, to wage a vigorous fight to keep a city-padlocked Crave nightclub open on his property at 380 Beale.
"I think the mayor's certainly got good intentions," said Miller's attorney Robert Wampler. "But, our position is we've got a terrific investment in that property down there and my clients will protect that interest till the end."
A silent Miller, along with family members, made a rare public appearance Wednesday at what was scheduled to be a hearing on the club's closure in Shelby County Environmental Court before Judge Larry Potter.
Last week Mayor A C Wharton, flanked by Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong and Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich, announced the troubled Beale Street nightspot was being shut down as a "public nuisance" in the wake of the latest shooting incident outside the club that claimed two lives. At that same news conference, Wharton called for the demolition of the building, labeling it as "snake-bitten."
"The issue in front of Judge Potter is whether or not there was a nuisance maintained on that premises that was detrimental to public health," said City Assistant District Attorney Robert Ratton. "There's been some really awful things that have happened there. It doesn't seem to change when they switch owners. It doesn't seem to change it just keeps happening. It looks like the club has basically been branded as a spot for things to occur that we can't allow in Memphis."
But, while Wharton's bravado appealed to public sentiment, keeping the club closed will be nothing compared to trying to legally wrest the property from the savvy Miller, whose history on the street goes back to the start of its revitalization in the 1970s.
Barring some questionable maneuvers such as invoking "eminent domain," the city would still have to pay Miller a fair value for his investment. The Shelby County Property Assessor's office lists the 2012 appraisal of the land and the building at 380 Beale as more than $673,000.
"Looks like we are in the beginning of what could take a little bit longer than we originally expected," Ratton said. "But, that's the nature of the beast. It is what it is."
Make no mistake. Given his history, Miller doesn't give up what he knows is his.
Owners of the club and property at 380 Beale St. are due back in Judge Potter's courtroom Jan. 4 at 1:30 p.m., where a motion to go to trial will be presented.
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