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Southland Entertainment, Inc. v. Louisiana Department of Revenue

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

July 19, 2017

SOUTHLAND ENTERTAINMENT, INC. D/B/A BED NITECLUB & LOUNGE
v.
LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, OFFICE OF ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO CONTROL

         APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF LAFAYETTE, NO. C-2015-4942 HONORABLE KRISTIAN D. EARLES, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Marcus A. Allen, Sr. COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Southland Entertainment, Inc. d/b/a BED Niteclub & Lounge

          Brett A. Bonin, Lousiana Department of Revenue, Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Louisiana Department of Revenue, Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control

          Jacqueline B. Wilson, Louisiana Department of Revenue, Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Louisiana Department of Revenue, Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Sylvia R. Cooks, Elizabeth A. Pickett, Billy H. Ezell, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.

          ELIZABETH A. PICKETT JUDGE

         The Commissioner of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, Louisiana Department of Revenue ("ATC") suspended the alcohol permit of the plaintiff, Southland Entertainment, Inc. d/b/a BED Niteclub & Lounge ("Southland Entertainment"), after finding that the business was in violation of La.R.S. 26:90(A)(11).[1] Southland Entertainment appealed the Commissioner's decision pursuant to La.R.S. 26:303(A).[2] After considering the testimony and other evidence presented by the parties, the district court upheld the suspension of Southland Entertainment's liquor license and the imposition of a monetary fine. On appeal, Southland Entertainment contends that the ATC failed to submit sufficient evidence to support the penalties imposed upon it. For the following reasons, we find the district court's findings are supported by the record and affirm its judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Southland Entertainment is a dance and nightclub located in downtown Lafayette. On May 4, 2015, Agent Tyrone Banks of the ATC received a telephone complaint, alleging that Southland Entertainment may have violated La.R.S. 26:286(A)(11)[3] by allowing controlled dangerous substances ("CDS") on the business premises. Mr. Reginald Mosley, the owner of Mosley Management, LLC, reported the complaint. Pursuant to a Consent Agreement entered into between ATC and Mr. Justin Lee, the owner of Southland Entertainment, Mr. Mosley's company was the exclusive security provider to Southland Entertainment. Mr. Mosley met with Agent Banks and expressed his concern and opinion that the ownership/management of Southland Entertainment was not fully committed to preventing the possible use of CDS, specifically marijuana, on the premises.

         Following Mr. Mosley's verbal complaint, Agent Banks initiated an undercover law enforcement investigation in order to find activity to support Mr. Mosley's allegation of permitted use of CDS on the premises by the ownership, management, or employees of Southland Entertainment. As part of the investigation efforts, Agent Banks enlisted various police officers from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette Metro Narcotics Task Force, as well as other agents with the ATC, to conduct undercover surveillance at Southland Entertainment during business hours on three nights in the summer of 2015. The purpose of the surveillance was to look for any use of CDS on the premises and to observe whether any of the ownership, management, security, or employees saw and permitted the use of said illegal drugs. After each night's undercover surveillance, the officer and/or agent submitted a written report of their findings.

         At the conclusion of the surveillance and investigation period, Agent Banks submitted all of the undercover investigative reports to the ATC legal department for review, whereupon the ATC issued an Administrative Citation to Southland Entertainment for two counts of violating La.R.S. 26:90(A)(11). The case initially went before the Commissioner of the ATC for an administrative hearing, after which the Commissioner concluded that Southland Entertainment had violated La.R.S. 26:90(A)(11). Southland Entertainment appealed the decision to the district court as provided in La.R.S. 26:303(A). At the conclusion of the trial, the district court upheld the suspension of Southland Entertainment's liquor license and monetary fine. Southland Entertainment appealed.

         ISSUE

         Southland Entertainment's assignments of error require this court to determine whether the district court erred in upholding the Commissioner's suspension of its liquor license based on the evidence presented by the ATC.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To reverse a district court's finding of fact, an appellate court must find from the record that a reasonable factual basis does not exist for the finding and that the finding is clearly wrong or manifestly erroneous. Mart v. Hill, 505 So.2d 1120 (La.1987). Pursuant to this standard of review, the appellate court does not determine whether the district court was right or wrong, but whether its conclusion was reasonable. Rosell ...


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