It doesn’t matter whether you bus tables or own a dining establishment, spring is one of the best times to make money in Arizona’s restaurant business. Perfect weather and tourists drawn by special events create a window of opportunity that lasts until Mother’s Day or the initial string of 100-degree days, whichever comes first.
That’s one reason a Scottsdale restaurant owner wants to extend his liquor license from the enclosed confines of his establishment to a patio that has had a certificate of occupancy since last year. Though the Sushi Brokers location near Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Scottsdale Road has been around for about 15 years and the restaurant is popular among locals, owner Randon Lee “RL” Miller said the ability to serve alcohol on the patio would bring in about $1,000 more in sales per day.
But the patio remains empty as Scottsdale police have recommended that the city urge the state liquor board to deny Miller’s request because of past his run-ins with law enforcement. Scottsdale police say they review all liquor-license applications before they go before the City Council.
“This has gotten so out of hand,” he said. “They’re on a witch hunt for me.”
Scottsdale police declined to comment on Miller’s assertion, but said that only six of 117 reported incidents at the shopping complex’s address since 2001 specifically mentioned Miller
The police activity negatively impacted Sushi Brokers’ bottom line in a couple of ways, Miller said.
First, because of the shopping center’s layout, traffic stops blocked access to the restaurant’s parking lot.
Second, the cruiser’s revolving lights would penetrate the restaurant’s glass exterior and light up the inside of the bar and dining room.
Miller admitted that, over time, he became upset about the traffic stops and spoke to police unprofessionally.
“After a while, they were blocking my driveways every day,” he said. “They were putting me out of business. I lose $500 to $700 a pull-over because people don’t come in and people don’t drink all of a sudden.”
Police who conducted traffic stops in the restaurant’s parking lot did not purposely choose that location, said Scottsdale police Officer Kevin Watts, a department spokesman.
“It’s a happenstance of location,” he said. “As a whole, it’s just where those traffic stops ended.”
Court records document Miller’s clashes with police, including two incidents at the restaurant in which Scottsdale police said they conducted liquor inspections and ended up arresting the restaurant owner in the process.
Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control records show that Miller paid a $500 fine after a 2013 inspection determined an employee consumed alcohol while on duty. During the inspection, Miller was arrested on suspicion of harassment, threatening and intimidating, disorderly conduct, failure to obey a police officer, failure to give his name to an officer and unlawful liquor consumption by an employee.
Cameron Morgan, an attorney who represented Miller in legal proceedings following the inspection, accused Scottsdale police of using a fake traffic stop as part of the liquor inspection to incite Miller.
Surveillance video of the incident shows Miller being chased by Scottsdale police into the restaurant, Morgan wrote in the appeals brief. The video shows officers tackling Miller, handcuffing him and pulling bandages off his fingers that had been “severely burned” in a kitchen accident, Morgan wrote.
The case went to trial and Miller was convicted of disorderly conduct, failure to obey a police officer and failure to give his name, Morgan said. Miller is appealing the convictions.
In another incident about one year after the first arrest, Scottsdale police said they went into the restaurant to conduct another liquor inspection. They arrested Miller on suspicion of disobeying a police officer, resisting arrest, disobeying a lawful order and disturbing the peace, court documents show.
Miller was found guilty of disorderly conduct and failure to obey a police officer, according to attorney James Palestini one of two attorneys from the law firm Kimerer & Derrick P.C. that represented Miller during the trial.
Morgan is in the process of preparing another appeal.
Miller also has cases of driving under the influence and marijuana pending.
The DUI charge stemmed from a traffic stop about two weeks after Miller’s January 2014 arrest, Scottsdale City Court records show. Scottsdale police said the trial is slated to begin next month. Palestini said a date has not been set.
In January, prosecutors filed charges against Miller for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia stemming from a December 2013 traffic stop near Sushi Brokers’ Scottsdale location, according to Maricopa County Superior Court records.
Scottsdale police stopped Miller for not having his lights on at night and for making a wide right turn, court records show. Inside Miller’s vehicle, they reportedly found less than 1 gram of marijuana and a pipe.
“I had a medical (marijuana) card within a few days after and a few days before,” Miller said. “Because of the lapse of it, they’re trying to see if they can shove it through.”
Arizona medical marijuana cards are valid for one year increments, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Palestini, who is representing Miller in the case, said his client has a valid card.
Sushi Brokers in Scottsdale hosted a diverse dinner crowd on a recent Monday evening. Families shared a meal, a nun and a teacher from Notre Dame Preparatory High School dined together and Grammy-award-winning musician George Benson chatted with friends near the bar. Meanwhile, the restaurant’s roughly 400-square foot patio, which can seat more than 25 additional people, was unoccupied.
The application to extend the liquor license has been been on the council agenda three times since June, but has never gone to a vote, according to Tim Curtis, Scottsdale’s Current planning director.
Last week, Miller decided to pull the application from the agenda because he was unaware that it had been resubmitted and he said he needed time to prepare his case.
“This is a need for guests,” he said about why the liquor-license extension should be approved. “This a need for my staff. The landlord wins. The city wins. There are no losers at all.”