The City of Mesa preemptively shut down an annual event hosted by Arizona Soul Brothers, the Phoenix-based motorcycle club that was involved in a deadly shooting last year.
The two-night event was scheduled to take place at Desert Wind Harley-Davidson near Country Club Drive and 10th Avenue. A flyer promoting the event stated that it was the 44th annual event hosted by the club.
Forty Eight Foundation – a 501c(3) non-profit first with ties to Arizona Soul Brothers members – applied for a liquor license for the event, which would feature beer, wine and spirits along with food like barbecue, a fish fry, hamburgers and hot dogs.
At a special session on March 22, the Mesa City Council unanimously voted to deny the liquor license application based on recommendations from the Mesa Police Department, which identified Arizona Soul Brothers as a criminal gang.
“My council colleagues and I give a lot of weight to our staff recommendations,” Mesa Councilman Christopher Glover said. “Our City staff members do a great job and put in a lot of time and effort on the reports they present to us, so more often than not we are going to listen to their recommendations. This case was no exception.”
At the special session, City Manager Chris Brady also said that city staff would deny the special events permit for the gathering, essentially canceling the event.
A representative from Desert Wind Harley-Davidson also said that the event “could potentially be canceled” following the city council decision.
Forty Eight Foundation is also hosting a motorcycle race day event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park on March 31, according to the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports events calendar.
According to city documents, Mesa Police Department recommended against the approval of both the liquor license and special events permit because Ernest Hickman, the liquor license applicant who identified himself as CEO of Forty Eight Foundation on the application, is a documented member of Arizona Soul Brothers.
The department cited two shootings that occurred at club-hosted events in the past, including an incident in Phoenix on April 6, 2017, in which two people were shot and one was killed.
The city document also stated that “Maricopa County Attorney charged multiple members of the Soul Brothers with participating/assisting in a criminal street gang, money laundering, conspiracy and narcotics drugs sales/possession charges. There are multiple convictions related to this case.”
At a City Council meeting on March 19, Hickman said that “everything on this list is not correct,” in reference to reasons listed by Mesa Police Department.
Hickman said that Forty Eight Foundation is a non-profit group that provides school supplies for inner-city children. He said the group has coordinated with Phoenix Police Department, Phoenix Suns, Walmart and Target.
Craig Miller, a Mesa resident and partner at Arizona Liquor Industry Consultants, also spoke at the meeting and said that Forty Eight Foundation came to his company for assistance in obtaining a liquor license for the event. Miller said his group would be on site to ensure compliance if the council approved the license.
Miller is a former detective with the Arizona Department of Liquor.
The council decided at the March 19 meeting to give the applicant an opportunity to meet with Mesa Police before taking up the issue again at a special session on March 22.
Mesa Police Commander Michael Beaton said the applicant did agree to some of the security measures suggested by police, but ultimately the police department stuck with its recommendation against approval for both the liquor license and the special events permit.
“We trust the report we received and understood the concerns the Police Department had, so we felt it was in the City’s best interest to deny the request based on the City staff and Mesa Police Department recommendations,” Glover said.
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