Legal disputes between a former Delavan bar owner and City Council are moving through the court system.
In December 2020, disagreement over payment terms of a lease between John Martin the owner of Johnny M’s Tavern and the city came to light.
City officials also claimed Martin had violated ordinances during the 13 years he has operated the bar.
Council members ultimately canceled the lease on June 1, 2021, and revoked Martin’s liquor license. The five-year lease was scheduled to expire at the end of this year.
Martin says the council has signed a new lease agreement and issued a liquor license to someone wanting to re-open the bar.
“I was never notified and the city held meetings behind my back,” he says. “They violated the Open Meeting Law. It’s unbelievable what they are trying to pull.”
As a result, Martin filed a civil suit against the city and council members Christopher Kruse, Daniel Haugh and former Mayor Kevin Walker.
Last October, a case to evict Martin from the city-owned building where his business is located was dismissed without prejudice. However, city officials could refile to reopen the case.
In his suit, Martin accuses the city of breaching its contract, violation of due process, not acting in good faith and passing a resolution in violation of its bylaws.
Although the bar hasn’t been open for several months, Martin says he continues to pay the monthly utility bills and other expenses.
Martin says the city has offered $50,000 to settle the civil case, but he says that’s not nearly enough.
“It’s been a nightmare, but I’m not backing down one bit,” he says. “It’s ridiculous what they’re offering. I’m not going to give in and I’ll fight it.”
A court trial has been set for Sept. 7, 8 and 9, according to court documents. However, Martin says it is expected to be rescheduled to sometime in October.