July 5 2018 10:58 AM

Council urges state to revoke license at Binni’s

Binni’s Bar and Grill — tucked into an unkept plaza at the corner of Washington Avenue and Miller Road in south Lansing— is likely to go unnoticed to the average daytime passerby. There’s no flashy signage; nothing to advertise happy-hour drinks. Yelpers have yet to recognize its quiet existence near the Hilliard Drain with a single review.

But Lansing Police Chief Michael Yankowski is all too familiar. At Yankowski’s assistance, the City Council last week unanimously approved a recommendation to send to Michigan’s Liquor Control Commission. Their message is simple: Lansing is fed up with the Binni’s. Revoke its liquor license.

“As chief of police, it’s my job to ensure that our police department maintains order, preserves public safety and fosters a better quality of life for those who live work and visit the Capital City,” Yankowski wrote to city officials. “Binni’s is not doing enough to regulate the setting and proactively intercede altercations that occur.”

Authorities tracked nearly 50 calls for service at the bar since 2016, according to Yankowski’s letter. A shooting was reported there on New Year’s Day. Another incident in March left a man with a bullet to his leg; Yankowski said the shooter is still at large. Other 911 calls included robbery, assault and ethnic intimidation, among others.

The bar also faces unrelated liquor violations, the letter continues. Yankowski said patrons have been able to sneak weapons past bouncers, customers have been harassed and neighbors have grown weary of the large — and often raucous — crowds that have gathered there for various musical events over the last few years.

“The previous owner had some mishaps,” said Love Preet Singh, referring to his father, Manjit Singh.

Singh, 21, said he assumed ownership of the business in April at his father’s request. He plans to push back against the recommendation and contended city officials have “some kind of thing” against the bar. Officials at the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said the bar’s liquor license remains intact — for now.

LARA spokesman David Harns said state regulators — specifically because of the city’s recent resolution in support of the license revocation — is set to review the bar’s ability to serve drinks at a meeting next month.

State records indicate the current license is in escrow pending a successful ownership transfer at the business.

“This isn’t even fair,” Love Singh added. “They’re not even giving me a chance to prove myself. … It has a bad past. I get that. I’m here to take it to a new light and make it a more family-friendly business. The problems with the rap shows were bad. That’s not the demographic that I’m trying to go for anymore.”

A new lineup of Latin-inspired music aims to attract a largely Mexican audience to the bar, Love Singh said.

City Clerk Chris Swope said Council members ultimately don’t control the issuance — or revocation — of liquor licenses but the recently passed resolution should help nudge state regulators onto the same page.

City officials still did what they could, recently denying Singh’s request for a cabaret license, Swope said. That city-issued permit is legally required for any business that pairs entertainment with dining.

“I don’t know how the state will handle this,” Swope said. “I don’t know how often they suspend licenses as opposed to revoking them but they’re currently not allowed to have any type of dancing or entertainment.”

Councilmembers spoke up against the “nuisance” bar and also claimed the establishment owes about $20,000 in delinquent taxes to the city. Calls to Manjit Singh were not returned but his son said he isn’t giving up in his ongoing fight to stay in business.

“I’m trying to hit an upper-class market,” Love Singh said, noting his status as a business management student at Grand Valley State University. “I’m doing everything in my power to fight back against this. How are you going to shut me down before I’ve had a chance to prove myself? There have been no problems since April.”

Binni’s Bar and Grill is at 820 W. Miller St. Love Singh said the bar has since been closed, at least temporarily, while he awaits a final determination on his liquor license and finalizes the ownership transfer.