June 27--A music industry group won a $102,000 victory Thursday against the embattled Allentown music club Crocodile Rock and its owner, Joe Clark.
Broadcast Music Inc. sued Crocodile Rock, Clark and his daughter Susan Clark in October 2012, claiming the nightclub hosted live musical performances and played recorded music after its license expired in March 2011. The suit said efforts to get the owner and managers of the club to renew the license were unsuccessful.
Last month, BMI filed a motion for default judgment, claiming it was entitled to $7,000 damages for each of five violations it alleged in the lawsuit and attorney fees and costs totaling $67,328. In its filing, the music-licensing agency noted that the nightclub had not responded with a defense by the deadline set by the court.
Clark on Thursday said the loss was the result of "a lack of communication" with his attorney and that he plans to appeal.
"I got screwed. I'll wind up paying it, probably," Clark said. "I'm extremely disappointed because I didn't really get a trial."
The judgment against Crocodile Rock and Clark is the latest in a series of setbacks for the club, which in 2012 was ranked at the 99th largest live music venue in the nation after selling more than 33,000 tickets.
In February 2013, Crocodile Rock lost its license to sell alcoholic beverages after a spate of liquor law violations and criminal assaults outside the club.
A dispute with one of the club's largest promoters followed. Clark and Crocodile Rock became embroiled in litigation over canceled concerts with promoter SLP Concerts. Clark and SLP owner Stanley Levinstone have since dropped their suits.
Nonetheless, Clark remained upbeat about his business, saying he has other plans for his empire of Allentown properties that could include a small hotel and shopping center.
"I always land on my feet," he said.
BMI, along with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, is one of three music-licensing agencies that have for decades collected fees on behalf of musicians and music publishers.
In its lawsuit, BMI alleged that an undercover employee visited Crocodile Rock in January 2012 and again in July and secretly recorded copyrighted music being played in the bar. BMI notes that although the suit is based on five songs, the club's continued operation without a license causes the agency and its artists "great and incalculable damage."
Judge Michael Baylson said, in an opinion granting judgment in BMI's favor, that the case had "a thorny procedural history." After the suit was filed in 2012, the defendants missed deadlines to file an answer and responded late to court instructions.
Last month, the court granted a motion by attorney Erv McLain to withdraw as Crocodile Rock's attorney, citing violations of his agreement with his clients and an inability to communicate. Although a new attorney, David Dunn, filed papers opposing a default judgment against his client, Baylson found BMI's demand for damages was appropriate.
(c)2014 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
Visit The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) at www.mcall.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services