By CYNTHIA KMETT
In the second night of hot debate at Troy City Council last week over who should operate the tennis facility on the Civic Center site, over 30 people took to the microphone to tell council their opinion and concerns. There were two bidders for running the facility for the next 20 years, All Court Tennis, LLC, and Troy Racquet Club LLC.
While Troy Racquet Club had been overseeing the facility for the past 40 years, when bids were tallied by the city, All Court Tennis was the clear winner with a 76.40 score over the Troy Racquet Club which compiled 62.33 points. Troy Racquet Club members, however, were having none of it. They wanted to keep the current management and they were out in force to tell the city to “do what’s right for the city.”
As one resident noted, this is “a real club; a real family has been created at the Troy Racquet Club and everyone is treated with dignity and respect.” The resident said, there is no drama and no service complaints there.
In the first meeting on the proposed change, some residents had called the new operator of the club a bit aggressive and not always nice to staff or members. But on this occasion, a number of former Troy Racquet Club members stepped up to say they now play at Wessen Tennis Club in Pontiac which is owned by All Court Tennis partners, and love it. They particularly noted that it’s organized and everyone is nice.
The debate raged for two hours. Despite residents like Kevin Collins who said he’s played tennis for 29 years and at six different clubs, saying “Wessen programs are the best,” and other Troy residents noting that the Troy Racquet Club’s lighting is bad, has some uneven courts and is dilapidated, city council seemed to want to side with the current operator, Don Pierce, who had founded the club and was undoubtedly the first private/public partnership in the city.
Even with the proposed new owners, Brian DeVirgilio and Chris Dobson, promising to “make you proud,” it didn’t work.
Dave Henderson said he was inclined to “honor a long-standing service” that has been provided by Troy Racquet Club. Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek added that there has been “a decree by residents and members for this club to be what it is.”
Council voted unanimously to keep the Troy Racquet Club, but they might see some new demands for upgrades in their new contract.
Things did not go as well for Tarboosh Hookah Lounge.
On March 15, Troy Police Officers conducted an inspection of the lounge. They had been tipped that the manager was serving customers alcohol and marijuana, and some of the customers were minors. The police discovered that the manager was not licensed as city code demands, and there was alcohol on the premises, a lot of alcohol. While the manager said it was for workers after they closed, the quantities did not appear to suggest that and they were ticketed for the offense.
Police returned three days later to find there were still patrons in the lounge at 1:45 a.m. The city ordinance says hookah lounges must close at midnight. And, the manager was still not licensed. More tickets and their smoking lounge license was suspended.
They were given the right to appeal, just as those who violate the liquor license rules are allowed to do. But when their lawyer showed up without the Tarboosh’s license holder, city council postponed the hearing to last week.
The license holder of Tarboosh Hookah Lounge was Jenias Hamami of Ann Arbor. While asking that their lounge be given another chance with a new licensed manager, no one seemed to have any experience with operating a smoking lounge.
The lounge was also going to get new owners, papers filed with the appeal told council.
But as Councilman Ethan Baker observed, if this was a restaurant or bar with four violations in three days, we wouldn’t even be considering a second chance. We would move to revoke the license, he said.
And that’s what council did; revoke the license. But now there’s a hookah license available if the “almost new owners” want to apply for it.
The city council meeting ran so long that when it came time to talk about a firm to search for a new city manager, several councilmembers wanted to postpone it for two weeks. But what if that meant they couldn’t meet the city charter deadline of a new manager by July 1? City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm said the council could make Acting City Manager Mark Miller the full-time manager while they conducted the search. So the council will look at the companies who do this kind of search in two weeks.