The fight between the bar owners of McDini's and National City continues unabated, according to Benjamin Adler, whose father's family trust owns the bar once known as a place to find SEALs and Special Warfare types between deployments.
"It's like two octopuses fighting over a clam," Adler says.
The fight is obstensibly over whether or not the place can have live entertainment, but, after eight years of conflict, it is just as fresh and infuriating for both sides.
"They keep bringing one lawsuit after the other and judges keep telling them they're wrong," says National City mayor Ron Morrison. "McDini's has always been a highlight of National City with a great reputation until the current owners came in."
The fight started in 2010, when the city brought a nuisance-abatement case against the bar, which had a conditional use permit for live entertainment limited to weekend nights. The city contended that the bar was violating the conditions. The court ruled in the city's favor but stayed the judgment to give McDini's a chance to get the proper permit — which McDini's applied for.
The city council approved the permit allowing limited live entertainment in 2012, according to court documents. In 2013, the city revoked McDini's permit for live entertainment after the planning commission decided McDini's was violating the 2012 permit — which had the same restrictions as the 2010 permit.
Then the city went back to the nuisance-abatement case and asked for a formal judgment against McDini's. They got it, and the judge awarded their legal costs as well. Within days, Adler, who is an attorney, filed a lawsuit seeking a writ of mandamus — a formal order to overturn the city-council action. The courts were being asked to reinstate McDini's permit, one judge noted. The bar lost at trial and appealed the judgment, which was upheld by the 4th District Court of Appeals earlier this year.
In the interim, Adler filed another suit against National City in December 2015, which is ongoing.
On Tuesday (December 20), the city council met in closed session to discuss the latest lawsuit — something the mayor can't talk about.
Adler said he knows they've been talking about it in closed session.
"They've been borrowing from city coffers to pay for their high-priced Solana Beach attorneys," he said.
Adler blames the city manager — who lives across the street — for the bar's troubles.
"She lives across the street," he said. "I guess she doesn't like people in the military."
Adler contends that city staff and their friends made the police calls that pushed the number of police visits to an unacceptable level. The bar owners believe that National City is wrong to assume they control the live-entertainment permit, saying it's up to the state bureau of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which issues liquor licenses.
"No one has ever taken the challenge so far in the courts and the judges don't know what to do," Adler said. "But we're going to take this as far as we have to to get them to follow the law."
Morrison scoffed at the idea that the ABC controls live entertainment and dancing.
"We issue the conditional use permits," he said emphatically. "We do." "That guy just doesn't quit," Morrison added. "We had a meeting where he got up and said we don't have live entertainment anymore and then the police got up and showed posters for events at the club. The guy said it was his competitors that put those up, but the posters came off his own website."