ALBANY, Ga. -- Businessman Gilbert Udoto said Friday his faith in the American justice system had been restored.
Udoto received notification late Thursday afternoon that one of his businesses, Big Daddy's Lounge, had had its alcohol license restored by Dougherty Superior Court Chief Judge Willie Lockette. The Albany City Commission did not renew Big Daddy's license on Jan. 29 after officials with the Albany Police Department cited five nightclubs for excessive and serious criminal complaints over the past several months.
Club Xscape, Charley B's Sports Bar, the Sandtrap Lounge and Club Legends, as well as Big Daddy's, had gone through hearings before the commission, but only Big Daddy's lost its license.
"I thought I was dreaming (when the commission made its original ruling)," Udoto said at his Odyssey Records business Friday. "(Lockette's ruling) shows that there is justice. I feel good about mankind right now."
In his order reversing the city's denial of Big Daddy's alcohol license, Lockette wrote, "The city simply did not give Udoto any pre-hearing notice that (specific city code) would govern its decision. The city's lack of fair, reasonable and timely notice cannot be cured by allegations and evidence that are brought up for the first time at the hearing."
Lockette cited Brown v. Wetherington and Hughes v. Russell cases in granting Udoto's petition for certiorari, which reversed the city's decision. Udoto's attorney, Bo Dorough -- who previously served on the Albany City Commission -- was unavailable for comment Friday.
Dorough had filed a motion seeking the writ after the city's January ruling, and he and Udoto joined Albany City Attorney Nathan Davis in presenting arguments before Lockette on March 29. Lockette requested briefs from Udoto and the city after that hearing, and Dorough filed on behalf of Udoto in letters dated April 10 and 23. Assistant City Attorney Chimere Chisolm sent the city's response on May 14, stating, "... (T)here was sufficient evidence by which the Mayor and Board of City Commissioners relied upon their decision regarding non-renewal."
Lockette agreed with Udoto.
"The fact that the city based its non-renewal decision on grounds other than those contained in its non-renewal notice clearly demonstrates the grievous harm Udoto suffered as the result of the legally insufficient notice," the judge wrote.
The businessman, much as he had when the City Commission made its decision, said Friday he couldn't believe the turn the city took during the hearing.
"It looked like they felt like they had to get someone," Udoto said. "They were talking about a shooting, which originated in the parking lot (of the Shackleford Shopping Complex) next door, and all of a sudden they were talking about closing hours and capacity and teenagers in the club.
"It turned into a kangaroo court."
Udoto said he has already purchased an improved surveillance camera system for Big Daddy's, and he indicated he may bring on additional security when the club reopens, probably next week.
"I expect to open back up as soon as we get the alcohol license from the city," he said. "We will certainly try to improve our security, but if someone decides to drive up to a nightclub with a weapon, I don't know what more you can do.
"I'm very happy that this has been straightened out. Albany is my village now, and I want to do everything I can to make it a better place to live."