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Battle of the Bars

Murphy's and the Bucc get litigious about live music.

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Wils Davis and Robert Carter used to be co-owners of Murphy's, a bar and music venue located on the corner of Madison and Avalon. But now the former partners are involved in a legal wrangle that's being fought in courts and on a local Web site, Goner.com.

Last month, Carter filed a lawsuit against Davis, accusing him of fraud. According to Michelle Adams, a former Murphy's employee who now works at the Buccaneer, it's a "case of sour grapes."

In spring 2004, Carter bought Davis' share of Murphy's for $75,000. Davis then bought the Buccaneer, a long-standing bar on Monroe, with former Murphy's employee Charles Langford in May 2004. Davis and Langford renovated the Bucc and began regularly booking live music.

Carter filed suit against Davis, Langford, and Adams last month. The lawsuit accuses Adams of defamation, Langford of tortuous interference, and the entire trio of conspiracy. At the heart of the suit is Carter's claim that Davis and Langford maliciously formed a competing partnership and began using contacts established while working at Murphy's to lure customers to the Buccaneer.

"That is a ridiculous claim," says Adams. "This isn't the kind of business where you cold-call people. This is a cold-beer business. My customers follow me because I'm a good bartender."

Carter's lawsuit is actually not the beginning of litigation between the two groups. In a June 2004 lawsuit, Adams accused Carter of assault and battery. After she lost her general sessions case, she appealed to Circuit Court. Shortly thereafter, Carter filed a countersuit and included Davis and Langford as additional counter-defendants.

Carter's lawsuit contends that Davis misrepresented himself when he sought to dissolve their partnership in 2004. His suit claims that Davis said he was going into real estate and that the pair drafted a partnership dissolution agreement based upon that information.

"[Carter] would certainly not have dissolved the partnership on the terms agreed to in the partnership dissolution agreement had he known that [Davis] intended to open a competing business in the same area of the city," reads the lawsuit.

Carter is seeking $100,000 in lost profits and $1 million in punitive damages.

"Murphy's is trying to sue us for taking their customers," says Davis. "The lawsuit is completely bogus."

When reached by the Flyer, neither Carter nor the attorney for Murphy's, Anthony Helm, would comment. n

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