Iowa City petitions court to cut hours at H-Bar following weekend shooting death in alley

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The city of Iowa City is taking legal action against the property and business owners of the H-Bar following a fatal shooting, increased serious incidents and a spike in calls for service.


The city filed a nuisance abatement petition Friday afternoon in Johnson County District Court requesting the court require the H-Bar, located at 220 S. Van Buren St., to close between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. daily. The bar is currently open 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursdays and 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, according to its Facebook page.


The petition was filed against the property owners — 220 S Van Buren, LLC — and the bar owners — Groundwork, LLC.


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Johnson County property records show 220 S Van Buren, LLC is listed under Bryan Clark of Apartments Downtown, one of Iowa City’s largest landlord companies. A September 2021 trade names document lists four co-owners of the H-Bar: James Miller, Katrell Sykes, David Sykes and Malik Maxwell.


The city said in a news release Friday afternoon it is pursuing these measures “to protect the community from the ongoing serious criminal activity occurring at and around the business since its opening earlier this year.”


Iowa City police have increased patrols around H-Bar this year, often requiring officers to work in an overtime capacity, according to the city. The city has “unsuccessfully sought” to address the ongoing issues with the property owners.


A hearing for the city’s request for temporary injunction has been set for Dec. 1 at 10 a.m. at the Johnson County Courthouse.


Increase in patrols, calls​


There were 23 calls for service to 220 S. Van Buren St. between 2016 and 2021, according to police. The logs show there were no calls in 2021.


However, between Jan. 1 and Oct. 23 of this year, there were 173 calls for service at the address. Those calls include a large fight on April 10 and a fight on June 19 in which a firearm was recovered from an individual barred from carrying guns.


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A shots-fired incident in the alley outside the bar on Aug. 7 left a woman seriously injured with multiple gunshot wounds. The case remains under investigation.


Miller, one of the H-Bar co-owners, was federally indicted by a grand jury last month for illegal firearm possession on April 7. Miller is currently released on recognizance awaiting trial on the federal gun charge.


On Oct. 23, Waymond Thomas, 36, of Iowa City was struck by gunfire outside of the H-Bar following an altercation that started inside. Thomas was transported to the hospital, where he died.


There are also calls for 911 hangups, noise complaints, foot patrol and suspicious activity.


Officers have also observed open container of alcohol violations at the location, according to the city’s petition. Iowa City police officer Paul Batcheller filed an affidavit with the petition.


Alley connects nearby apartments​


The property at 220 S. Van Buren St. was purchased by Clark on June 4, 2015 for $250,000, according to property records.


The prior business at this location was a hookah bar, Nile Hookah. H-Bar, also a hookah lounge, opened on Dec. 31, 2021, according to the city’s petition.


H-Bar is licensed to sell tobacco and does not have a license to sell alcohol.


H-Bar is next to a public alleyway that connects South Van Buren Street and South Johnson Street. This is where the two shootings took place.


H-Bar and alley as captured by Google Maps Street View cameras in November 2021


Across from the H-Bar, on the other side of the alley, are two multiplex apartment buildings located at 505 and 507 E. College Street. Tenants of these apartment buildings need to use the alley to access their parking spaces, according to the city’s petition.


The property owner of these apartment buildings is also Clark, despite being listed under a different legal entity.


“Residents of nearby property have expressed fear for their safety due to the violent incidents that have occurred immediately surrounding the H-Bar,” the city said in the petition.


Separate infraction for expanding without a building permit​


H-Bar expanded the building by nearly 15 percent this past spring without obtaining a building permit from the city, as required by ordinance, according to the city. The petition says the property owner was aware of this expansion and the “ongoing problems that arose” after H-Bar opened.


The city filed a municipal infraction citation against the property owner last month for the work done without a permit. The property management company is again listed as Apartments Downtown and is pleading not guilty to the ordinance violation.


A hearing for the municipal infraction citation case is set for Dec. 15 at 3:30 p.m. at the Johnson County Courthouse.


H-Bar City Petition to Abate Nuisance by Gazetteonline on Scribd

 
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