DOWNTOWN — An attorney for Bottled Blonde was jailed on drug charges last weekend, delaying the restaurant's final hearing with the city.
The attorney, Timothy Fitzgerald, was arrested in Berrien County, Michigan, officials said during Tuesday's hearing. An official with the Berrien County Sheriff's Department said Fitzgerald, 72, was charged with two counts of delivery and manufacturing of marijuana and maintaining a drug house.
Records show Fitzgerald was booked on Friday.
Since Fitzgerald wasn't able to appear in court Tuesday, Bottled Blonde fired him. Fitzgerald has represented the restaurant through several months of hearings with the city. The change threw a wrench into what was supposed to Bottled Blonde's final hearing.
Hearing officer Robert Nolan, who will weigh in on whether or not he thinks the bar can stay open, had expressed frustration over the length of the hearings. He said last week that Tuesday would be the final day of the process.
But an attorney who was helping Bottled Blonde on Tuesday asked if the restaurant could get another continuance as it tries to find a new lawyer.
After a series of tense discussions, Nolan agreed to give Bottled Blonde another week. An owner of the restaurant, Marcus Cook, told Nolan the restaurant had "every intention today of going through this case" but he didn't think the team could get a new attorney "up to speed" on the case in just one week.
Nolan said the restaurant's owners would either have to find an attorney and prepare him for trial or go without an attorney if they're not ready by Tuesday for a final hearing. Nolan acknowledged Bottled Blonde might have to pay extra to get a new attorney ready so quickly.
Bottled Blonde could have its licenses suspended or revoked pending the outcome of the hearings, but a decision could take several days.
The city alleges Bottled Blonde violated its legal agreement of operation, which includes the promise that it would operate primarily as a restaurant with less than half of its sales coming from liquor. The agreement also includes provisions that waiting patrons would be kept in a single-file line of no more than 25 people, that security would be provided and that an employee would clean up litter.
The hearings have been tense at times with sparks flying between Fitzgerald, Nolan and witnesses.
Several neighbors — who have said Bottled Blonde was acting as a club or bar, not a restaurant — testified against Bottled Blonde during two previous hearings. They said they'd found vomit, urine and litter in the area near the restaurant, had problems with large groups of people crowding the sidewalk outside Bottled Blonde and had called the police on people around the establishment.
Barbara Gressel, a deputy commissioner with the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, testified the restaurant's sales were dominated by liquor and not food — an alleged violation of the restaurant's agreement of operation.
The case and restaurant gained public attention after Bottled Blonde posted a lengthy dress code that banned Jordan gym shoes, leather, "obnoxious" prints and "odd-colored" pants, among many other items.