What will happen to MudBugs? Alabama Beach City to determine bar’s fate during hearing slams attorneys as ‘illegal’
At MudBugs Pub & Club in Gulf Shores, locals go for karaoke, pool and darts.
It has operated for over 20 years in the heart of the Gulf Shores Parkway and in an area populated with restaurants and amenities near the beaches that are marketed more for the area’s record-breaking tourism.
But the bar’s fate is now in flux, and Gulf Shores City Council will serve as judge and jury Thursday during a special hearing on whether MudBugs’ business license should be renewed.
It will be the second special public hearing in the past week as Gulf Shores leaders weigh whether to extend business licenses to bars with questionable histories.
MudBugs will not be present.
The facility’s attorney, Mark Ryan, told AL.com on Tuesday that he would not be there and is advising the bar’s owner, Janley Woerner Miarka, not to show up for the 3pm special session either.
Ryan claims the Gulf Shores hearing is a “violation of due process” and calls the hearing “illegal” because he claims it was not established by city ordinance through a prior vote of the Gulf Shores City Council. The Gulf Shores ordinance contains language that allows a hearing so long as an applicant is given 10 days’ notice.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my 30 years of practice,” said Ryan, an Orange Beach attorney. “It is disturbing that in a city the size of Gulf Shores, with the resources that they have, these (hearings) are taking place. These are unlawful practices.”
The City of Gulf Shores declined to comment.
The hearing is expected to include testimony from the Gulf Shores Police Department, which is chronicling public safety issues at the late-night bar. Recent incidents that drew local media attention included an alleged sexual assault and brawl on August 28 and a shooting on February 27, 2021, which took place after an angry patron exited the bar and fired his gun at it would have.
Ryan argues that no official complaint has been filed with him, although he confirms he has met with Gulf Shores Police Commissioner Ed Delmore and Deputy Police Commissioner Dan Netemyer in recent days to discuss the concerns.
He said the meetings with the police were “outstanding and professional and sensible” and resulted in some agreements including confirmation that the bar had agreed to extend its closing time from 3am to 1am and Buy a scanner for ID cards.
Delmore declined to comment before Thursday’s hearing.
“The problem we’re running into is that this whole procedure that the city is following is not a valid procedure,” he said.
The past of the cigar bar
The MudBugs hearing comes after another Gulf Shores bar, also with a troubling past, came before the council during a special session Monday.
Cohiba Dunes, originally opened as a “cigar bar” in 2008, had its business license renewed for 90 days after the venue’s new owner asked the council for an opportunity to prove himself.
Monday’s hearing lasted over an hour and was highlighted by the testimony of Gulf Shores Deputy Police Chief Dan Netemeyer. He chronicled past troubles at the bar, including biker gang activity, graffiti, and a 45-minute encounter with an impaired and violent customer in a parking lot connected to a multiplex theater, among others.
“I don’t come before you often except to transfer a public safety matter that is urgent in Gulf Shores,” Netemeyer told the council, before listing the past issues at Cohiba Dunes since 2017 but before the new owner took over. “These are not the activities that Gulf Shores citizens expect. These are not the activities that guests expect at Gulf Shores.”
He added, “I don’t think anyone who goes to the Cobb Theater or a late night action thriller would want to walk into a parking lot and experience it in real life, which is what happens in the parking lot at the Cohiba Dunes in the US happened is past.”
The cigar bar, Netemeyer argued, had not operated as an actual cigar bar for years. He said a commercial humidor room – where people gather to smoke cigars – was used for storage.
Netemeyer said Cohiba Dunes has had a total of 181 calls for police duty since 2017, more than double the number at other Gulf Shores facilities that operate similar night hours.
Netemeyer said there have been no criminal issues over the past month and during the period that new management has taken over.
Cigar bar or late night
Turner Adcock, the facility’s new manager, told the council that Cohiba Dunes will have happy hour and cater to a business audience. New security measures have been put in place to prevent criminal activity in the bar or in the nearby car parks.
“We believe that we can completely innovate Cohiba,” said Adcock. “We are making progress to get the humidor working and there will be a good range of cigars to choose from.”
However, Adcock asked for the bar to stay open until 3am
“I’m hearing two business plans,” Gulf Shores City Councilman Jason Dyken said. “Renovate and rebuild the cigar bar that was (once) successful and hasn’t had the problems recently documented by the bar, also staying open until 3am”
He added, “For me, the night people aren’t the cigar bar lovers.”
Adcock said the cigar bar “lures” visitors to the Cohiba Dunes, but the bar needs to “attract more business throughout the day.”
The Gulf Shores City Council ordered the bar to add more security cameras, use the bar’s back door for staff entry only, establish private security on site, and install “no firearms” on the premises.