Nashville police shut down “private home” for being nuisance www.privateofficer.com
Nashville TN Sept 29 2011 Police and prosecutors shut down bars and motels when police are called repeatedly for fights, thefts, drugs or drunkenness.
They declare the site a public nuisance, padlock it and then use the courts to keep it closed or clean it up.
Now police have suspected drug houses in their sights.
Neighbors had complained for years that a house in Nashville at the end of Merry Street was a drug distribution point. The people coming and going there made it unsafe to go outside at times, said Councilwoman Edith Langster, who represents that area, in District 21.
In April, police moved in as community pressure increased. They boarded up the house and arrested the man they say was selling drugs there.
It was the first time Metro had used the nuisance laws to target a private home. Langster said it was a rousing success for the neighborhood.
“They’re very, very happy. If you ride down that street, people can walk their dogs now, they can sit on their porch, they can have flower gardens,” she said. “It’s like any other worthwhile neighborhood.”
The woman who owned the home, 86-year-old Lucille Carter, hasn’t lived there for years, said her attorney, FikishaSwader. She agreed to let Metro demolish the house, and she will keep the land.
“Because there was such narcotic activity, she was willing to make everyone happy,” Swader said. “She didn’t have the money to absorb litigation costs, so she agreed to let them destroy the property.”
The neighborhood is still waiting for the home to be demolished. “I hope that I’m there the day the bulldozers come to destroy the house,” Langster said. “That will be a time of rejoicing.”
Though the nuisance suits have been around since 1997, Metro has found them increasingly useful over the last year.
“Nuisance actions against businesses are not taken lightly and are a last resort when repeated warnings and other enforcement actions fail to get the message across,” said Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson in an email.
Recently, police shuttered Luau Louie’s Hula Hut at 217 Second Ave. S. in downtown Nashville, saying that the bar was a haven for underage drinking, drunk and disorderly patrons and fights. The owners will appear in court today.
The owners’ attorney, Adam Dread, said he respects the use of such nuisance suits to shutter problem businesses. But he said that it was unfair to use it on Luau Louie’s.
“You don’t use a tire iron to fix a window,” Dread said. “I believe that it could be used and still can be used as a tool in actual nuisance situations where the public is in danger, but I don’t think Luau Louie’s is one of those.”
Luau Louie’s is at least the fifth property targeted by Metro’s nuisance lawsuits since July 2010, when the Harding Inn was closed after complaints of prostitution, fights, shootings, stabbings and drugs. The owners sold that property. Only 15 businesses had been shuttered in 9 years prior to the Harding Inn case.
In addition to Luau Louie’s, two other bars have been hit with nuisance suits, both in the 1200 block of Murfreesboro Pike. The nuisance suits forced the businesses to restrict their hours and prohibit special events that could cause problems.
Swader expects more private homes to be boarded up.
“I’m sure of it,” she said. “This is the first one that they’ve really thrown, but they’re not going to stop.”