Judge Radcliffe’s Ruling Moves DeFilippo Step Closer To Liquor Store Opening

DeFilippo
From 2018, Michael DeFilippo campaigns in front of Blackham School.

Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe on Friday removed an obstacle to City Councilman Michael DeFilippo’s years-long legal skirmish to reopen a liquor store on Brooklawn Avenue. See the judge’s full decision here.

Last February the Planning and Zoning Commission amended regulations to liquor stores including reducing the distance of sales from within 1,500 feet to a 750-foot radius within houses of worship, schools, hospitals, and commercial day care centers.

An appeal was brought by a coalition of 12 competing liquor store owners in Bridgeport arguing the amendments violate the “uniformity” requirement in state statute. Judge Radcliffe, who as recently as August 2019, ruled against city zoners in an unrelated matter, sided for the defense, the Planning & Zoning Commission.

DeFilippo’s barrier to consumer sales has been playing out among zoning hearings, community meetings, lawsuits and court fights.

Forced to shut down his liquor store in 2016 because of the 1,500 foot rule, DeFilippo’s lawyer, land-use specialist Chuck Willinger, crafted a legal strategy to update zoning regulations.

After reviewing the court decision Willinger issued this written statement to OIB: “Bottom line is P&Z has great discretion & latitude in adopting its regulations. Reducing 1500 rule (which is archaic & more restrictive than most municipal regs) to 750 ft is reasonable & in my opinion still too restrictive. Why should liquor stores have such anti-competitive protections?”

Chuck Willinger

Willinger had argued previously on behalf of his client, “For a young businessman who opened a business that did not harm anyone to go through the cost and delays he has incurred on this issue is an outrage.”

Planning Director Lynn Haig also asserted Bridgeport’s liquor regulations were too restrictive.

DeFilippo also faced pushback from community interests opposed to Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa who had come under fire in 2017 for absentee-ballot irregularities that led to two court-ordered primary do-overs for City Council. DeFilippo, a bartender at one of Testa’s restaurants, ultimately won election to the City Council.

DeFilippo received an unexpected ally in his liquor store fight when his primary opponent Ann Pappas Phillips, a member of the zoning commission, announced public support for the new liquor store rules. Although she did not attend the ultimate meetings that amended the regulations, she declared, “You have to separate the personal animosity from what is best for the city. The state has allowed 57 liquor licenses (in Bridgeport). It (the revised liquor rules) sends a message the city is open to new, small retail businesses.”

Pappas Phillips, an attorney, passed away in October 2019.

In February 2019, City zoners raised DeFilippo’s spirits when they halved the distance between liquor stores and schools, daycare facilities, hospitals and churches to 750 feet. An appeal was heard by Judge Radcliffe who largely dismissed the plaintiffs’ arguments.

Judge Dale Radcliffe

DeFilippo’s store reopening is not yet a lock. He still requires certificate of location and state liquor commission approval. Plus, Judge Radcliffe’s decision could be appealed.

From Radcliffe’s ruling:

Judge’s conclusion:

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12 comments

  1. That’s ABSOLUTELY correct. Defilippo opening his store is “not a lock”. I had some comments on this topic under the “Nardozzi” blog.
    Read the Judges decision. It clearly states that the “new” regulations which were solely created for DEFILIPPO must be adhered to and zoning MUST apply the rules.
    His Honor gives quite a clear description of this 4 year saga orchestrated by Defilippo
    ET AL on his behalf as to how the system was ABUSED by them to get the councilman/bartender what he wants.
    It’s amazing to me how people like Defilippo can have ANY self respect and can look anybody in the eye knowing that the eyes that look back at them see what a self centered and arrogant person that he is. He has absolutely no interest in doing good and what’s right for the “public”.
    More to come……. and bartender……….here’s a tip for you- everybody sees and knows what you are about.

    People of Bridgeport please wake up. You are being taken advantage of by the hounds who do nothing for you.

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    1. Also it should be known that the cities attorney didn’t argue the case but had Defilippos attorney to argue the cities case——SO… did the city pay for Defilippos representation?????
      Follow the money. Who paid Willinger to represent the city? Who paid Willinger for 4 years of work to get the law changed for only one person?
      Again: Follow the money?
      Maria????? Taxpayer dollars??

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      1. Rich, Russell Liskov represented city in the appeal. I asked Willinger about his fees. He responded he’s paid solely by DeFilippo. He added “The abuse my client has suffered by the package store owners is outrageous. They care about 1 thing & 1 thing only – their pocketbook.”

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        1. Lennie, I don’t believe that you were at the initial hearing when the judge asked Liskov directly to present his side of the case and Liskov mumbled and fumbled informing the judge that Willinger would present. Judge Radcliffe admonished Liskov basically asking him that why he- Liskov was not handling it since it was his job as the cities attorney representing OPED. Radcliffe did ultimately allow Willinger to speak on Liskovs request but did state that he was representing a client and not the city.
          Lennie… you know better… they tell you what they want you to hear.
          Matter of fact, I posted what happened in court on your blog right after it happened. You can look back at that and see that I did. Also you can touch base with Joel Green to find out that Willinger presented the case.
          Liskov lied to you. Ask Rich ledger what transpired.

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          1. Oh by the way, willingers comment about only caring about our pockets is laughable in relation to Defilippos store. His location will not be a threat to any other liquor business. You can’t even get a spot in his lot with Mario’s customers parking all over and Lennie , you know that to be true. This fight was about principle and Against the corrupt manner in which they wanted to change the rules that we all have to live under. This was about AND FOR JUST ONE PERSON, Michael DeFilippo- and everyone who knows anything about this case knows it. Let’s not forget all the people who came to all of the zoning board hearings over all these years who were against the actions ultimately taken by that board. List them Lennie as the judge did. The only people who spoke for this change was Willinger. Defilippo never even spoke on his own behalf. When all else failed willinger got OPED to do his bidding.
            Like I said : more to come.

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          1. I haven’t heard that but if true I guess that the cost of the move must have been funded by Defilippo and the City in fees collected by them for his case!!!!!!!!!
            Liskov says no cause he-Liskov did the work!
            Ha ha. Yeah right.

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  2. Rich, this what the voters of Bridgeport wanted by reelecting Joe Ganim as mayor thereby keeping Mario Testa in power so it’s business as usual. The City Council will do nothing because they want to get reelected so they won’t piss off Mario. Once again, Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe is educating the voters about the law even if the decision is not popular but it’s truth and Judge Radcliffe decision is a roadmap to make the necessary changes but I doubt it will happen.

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