Twelve25 accuses Tuscaloosa of civil rights violation in fresh lawsuit

Maven Navarro, Staff Reporter

Twelve25, a popular gastropub located on The Strip, and its holding company CMB Holdings filed a new lawsuit Wednesday against the City of Tuscaloosa, Mayor Walt Maddox and individual Tuscaloosa City Council members, accusing the city of unlawfully passing and enforcing a new local ordinance targeting the bar because it is minority owned and attracts customers away from other, non-minority owned businesses.  

The new lawsuit comes after the bar dropped a previous lawsuit against the city on March 27. That lawsuit had been moved to from state court to a federal district court in Birmingham, per Tuscaloosa Patch. After the move, a federal judge ruled that the city had the right to enforce the new occupancy requirements. The new lawsuit was filed in Tuscaloosa County circuit court. 

“Defendants unlawfully passes, enforced, and applied a local ordinance targeting the Plaintiff’s land use rights because Plaintiff’s business is minority-owned, it attracts many members of the Black community (predominantly Black college students) to the area of Tuscaloosa known as the ‘Strip,’ and it attracts significant numbers of customers away from already-established businesses on the Strip which have white owners,” the lawsuit, filed by attorney J. Mark White, reads.  

The city passed a new ordinance on March 7 that establishes land restrictions on gastropubs by retroactively limiting occupancy levels.   

The bar used to be regulated by two occupancy limits. Previously, Twelve25 could hold 287 people when its chairs and tables were present. When the furniture was removed, it could hold 519 people. Both occupancy levels were approved in 2019 by the Tuscaloosa Building Department, the Tuscaloosa Fire Department, and the Tuscaloosa Revenue Department.  

Under the new ordinance, the business will only be allowed to have one occupancy limit, set at 287.  

The lawsuit states that this ordinance unlawfully re-zones the business into a new zoning category, rescinds previously lawful land use that the City specifically approved, and restricts future land use based on restrictions the City has placed on businesses in possession of a specific state-issued liquor licenses restrictions the lawsuit says fall outside of the City’s purview.  

When asked to provide a statement regarding the lawsuit, Mayor Walt Maddox referred the request to Scott Holmes, City Attorney, who said it is not policy of the City to not comment on pending litigation, but provided the following statement.  

“On March 7th, the City Council voted unanimously to tie every establishment with a restaurant alcohol license to the occupancy associated with the establishment’s use as a restaurant, thus not allowing restaurants to morph into mega bars by removing all furniture,” Holmes wrote. “On March 22, the operator of Twelve25, filed a 52-page lawsuit against the City and its elected officials, seeking a temporary restraining order and other relief. On March 23, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama held a 9+ hour hearing on Twelve25’s motion for relief, and at its conclusion the Court denied relief. On Monday, March 27, Twelve25 unilaterally and voluntarily dismissed its own lawsuit.” 

White, the attorney representing Twelve25 said he is hopeful the city will fix the situation.  

“We tried to set out specifically in the complaint the facts, and I think it speaks for itself,” White said after the new lawsuit was filed. “That said we remain hopeful the City will seek to find ways to resolve a dispute our clients never wanted.”