Commissioner explains lone ‘no’ vote in Africa Nightclub liquor license battle

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - We’re hearing more tonight from the city commissioner who had the lone dissenting vote Monday afternoon in a Fargo bar’s months-long battle to keep its doors open.

Fargo commissioners voted to require the Africa Bar and Nightclub to either sell its liquor license within the next 30 days or have it revoked. If the owners do not sell their license within the timeframe, or if the person they sell it to doesn’t pass a background check, the license automatically goes back to the city.

Commissioner Tony Gehrig says he voted ‘no’ because he wanted the business’ license to be revoked on the spot, rather than giving another grace period.

“Instead of losing their license, they get to sell it for a massive profit. A $100,000 license that can be sold on the open market for upwards of $500,000, that’s a gift! That’s not how things should operate. It’s not a commodity,” Gehrig said.

In Monday’s meeting, Mballu Brown, the business’ proposed new owner and wife of former owner, Francis Brown, made an emotional plea asking for a second chance.

“I’m not a bad one. Why don’t you give me a chance?” she said Monday evening.

However, Gehrig said he didn’t believe that would be the case.

“They need new leadership, they need new management. They need to fix a lot of things that are broken. Another 30 days is not going to fix it. Another 60 days is not going to do it,” Gehrig said Tuesday afternoon. “She’s been an owner of that bar since 2019. She just wasn’t acting as the owner because it was basically fraudulent paperwork. They said she was the owner, but she wasn’t.”

When asked how soon other Fargo businesses could soon face a similar fate with both the City Commission and Liquor Control Board, Gehrig responded it will ‘not soon enough.’

“If you’re not running the bar properly, you lose your license. I don’t care if that makes you sad or not. That sounds heartless, but I’m sorry, that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for the safety of the public,” he said.

Management of the Africa Nightclub declined to speak with our news team today.

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