Minority business owners file federal lawsuit against Racine

RACINE (WITI) -- Civil rights violations, racketeering and corruption are just a few of the allegations being brought forward against the City of Racine. A federal lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, February 25th on behalf of eight former business owners who claim they were unfairly targeted because of their race.

"They wanted them out. I got the distinct impression that they have no room for minority business owners in the downtown area of Racine," Attorney Vincent Bobot said.

Bobot represents two of the eight business owners who have now filed a lawsuit through a civil rights attorney.

"I think the case has merit and huge financial consequences for the city of Racine," Bobot said.

In the 50-page document, attorneys allege a far-reaching conspiracy to target African-American, Asian and Hispanic bar owners -- dating back to 2006. It is even the subject of a documentary released in January.

Defendants include members of Racine's Tavern League, Racine's Building Improvement District, Racine's City Council -- and even Racine's mayor.

They are accused of working to deny issuing or renewing licenses for minority bar owners -- particularly those located in parts of the city where minority patrons were not welcome.

Additionally, the plaintiffs claim the city would force minority bar owners into unfair "side agreements" in order to continue doing business -- including hiring off-duty police officers or private security, installing or updating security cameras inside and outside of the bar, and establishing dress codes and age restrictions -- practices not asked of Caucasian bar owners who own bars frequented by white patrons.

Bobot says these minority-owned bars had fewer problems than bars with Caucasian owners, but today, there are no minority-owned bars in downtown Racine.

"The owner does everything you`d expect them to do, and now they want to take their license away for doing it," Bobot said.

Racine Mayor John Dickert did not return a call to FOX6 News for comment on this story.

Racine's Deputy City Attorney, Scott Letteney says the city has not yet been served with the complaint. He says Racine denies it illegally discriminated against any person or business.