Home Field Sports Grill is demolished

Contractors finish off demolition Wednesday of the old Home Field Sports Grill on Decatur Highway in Fultondale. The restaurant and sports bar was heavily damaged in the April 2011 tornado, and owner John Douglas fought legal battles with the city over its rebuilding. Douglas gave up on his final appeal, citing legal costs.

The end has come for Home Field Sports Grill.

The former restaurant and sports bar was demolished Wednesday by contractors working for the city of Fultondale, as owner John Douglas had withdrawn his appeal in a lawsuit against the city.

“I think I was messed over,” Douglas said on Thursday. “The fix was in from day one. They weren’t going to let us open back up again.”

Home Field was heavily damaged in the April 2011 tornado that struck Fultondale. City building inspectors said the structure was partially destroyed by more than 50 percent, a threshold which meant Douglas would have to rebuild the restaurant to meet current codes.

Douglas contended that the damage was not past the 50-percent threshold, and he should have been grandfathered in under the previous codes because the building was erected before Fultondale had zoning laws put in place.

The two sides battled through the zoning appeals process, with Fultondale finally deciding that Douglas had not submitted proper plans for rebuilding within a year of the tornado, as required by city ordinances.

“We had plans approved by the city building inspector two weeks before the end of that year, but like I said, the city wasn’t going to let [rebuilding] happen,” Douglas said.

The dispute led to a lawsuit by Douglas against the city filed in May 2012. Fultondale attorneys filed to have the suit thrown out, and Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tom King agreed in August, ruling that Douglas had not exhausted all of his avenues of appeal within the city’s zoning process.

King later denied a motion by Douglas’ attorneys to reconsider. In August 2013, Douglas told The North Jefferson News that he would appeal King’s decision. But he said Thursday that he subsequently dropped the appeal, which allowed the city to proceed with the demolition.

“I spent more than $150,000 in legal fees on that case, and I didn’t want to spend any more,” he said. “And the city has a lot more to spend on this. I still maintain it was not damaged beyond 50 percent.”

Douglas’ battle took on a personal aspect when he ran against Mayor Jim Lowery in the 2012 municipal elections. Lowery won re-election by a margin of more than two to one.

When reached by The North Jefferson News on Thursday, Lowery declined to comment on the matter.

The property is still owned by Douglas through a holding company. He said it’s for sale, and that he is doing a market analysis at the moment.

“But I’m not in any hurry to sell it,” Douglas said.

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