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Judge finds Iowa City hookah bar in contempt, fines owners
H-Bar admits to being open past 2 a.m. on four dates
IOWA CITY — Owners of a hookah bar in Iowa City have been found in contempt after violating on four separate dates a temporary injunction issued last December, in which the court ordered the business to close at 2 a.m.
The owners of Groundwork, doing business as the H-Bar at 220 S. Van Buren St., agreed to a resolution with the city of Iowa City and admitted it was in violation four times.
The owners must pay a $500 sanction for each of those violations, totaling $2,000.
The violations were on Jan. 1, March 4 and 5, and April 9, according to an order filed Wednesday by 6th Judicial District Judge Ian Thornhill.
Two of the six violations on Feb. 26 and March 18 were dismissed as part of the resolution, the order stated. The Groundwork owners — James Miller, Katrell Sykes, David Sykes and Malik Maxwell — also were ordered to pay all costs associated with the contempt action.
According to court documents, the hookah bar stayed open past 2 a.m. to warrant the violations.
On Jan. 1, it was open at 2:38 a.m. when police received a noise complaint. The noise in the bar was heard from the Chauncey Swan parking lot — about 225 feet from the bar.
On March 4, an officer conducted a check of the bar about 2:05 a.m. and heard loud music and saw 20 to 25 people inside and another large group entering the bar at this time.
On March 5, an officer heard loud music in the bar at 3:36 a.m. with 20 people inside. At 5:28 a.m., the officer could hear loud music from the bar while standing in the Iowa City Rec Center parking lot, about 130 feet from the bar.
On April 9, the bar was open and allowing groups of people inside at 2:31 a.m. About 30 people entered the bar as the officer waited to speak to an owner. It didn’t appear that anyone conducted security checks when letting in patrons.
On April 9, a man “stumbled out of the H-Bar and appeared to be intoxicated,” Officer Eric Nieland said in an affidavit. The officer then found the man at 2:52 a.m. passed out in his car with the engine running. Next to him on the passenger seat was an AR-15 rifle. The man was arrested for drunken driving and possession of a dangerous weapon while intoxicated.
The temporary agreement was reached with the H-Bar owners in December, following an increase in serious incidents and calls for service. The owners agreed the bar would close and have no customers inside after 2 a.m. The owners also agreed to allow Iowa City police officers to enter during open hours to perform “community caretaking functions.”
The temporary agreement is to remain in place until a permanent resolution can be reached, according to the city.
The city in October filed a nuisance abatement petition against the property and owners following a fatal shooting, increased serious incidents and a spike in calls for service.
There were 23 calls for service to 220 S. Van Buren St. between 2016 and 2021, according to police. Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 23, 2022, there were 173 calls for service at the address.
Those calls included 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.
A woman was shot multiple times and seriously injured in the alley outside the bar on Aug. 7.
Waymond Thomas, 36, of Iowa City, was shot outside the bar following a fight that started inside the bar on Oct. 23. He later died at the hospital.
Another fight that started inside the bar and continued outside resulted in Kendel Thompson, 20, and Antonio Scotton, 19, both of Cedar Rapids, each being charged with willful injury and participating in a riot.
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