2 lawsuits slam fights, underage drinking at popular Lawrence college bar

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from Dec. 7, 2017, The Jayhawk Cafe — aka The Hawk — sits at the corner of 13th and Ohio streets.

Two men hurt in fights at a popular Lawrence college bar are suing, claiming the bar’s negligence created an unsafe environment that caused their injuries.

The separate lawsuits against the Jayhawk Cafe at 1340 Ohio St., known as the Hawk, are currently pending in Douglas County District Court.

In one case, the plaintiff was injured after fighting with Hawk staff who refused to let him in because he was drunk, underage and using a fake ID, according to filings.

In the other case, the plaintiff claimed he was “brutally assaulted” by underage patrons at the Hawk.

Both men want the bar to pay them in excess of $75,000 for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. Jury trials in both cases are currently scheduled for next summer.

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Tyler Hull claims the Hawk’s negligence was responsible for him being injured in a fight there in June 2017.

Hull’s suit, filed in July 2018, says he was “brutally assaulted by underage customers of the ‘Hawk,'” leaving him with a fractured eye socket that required multiple surgeries, facial disfigurement, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hull, who worked for the downtown nightclub Tonic at the time, said he and other Tonic staffers had been on a company outing. A party bus dropped them off at the Hawk, where they were provided with a free keg of beer.

Hull said when he was attacked by underage patrons, the Hawk’s security personnel — if it had any — “were completely unresponsive to this brutal assault” occurring “within their plain sight.”

The Hawk “is known for allowing underage patrons to drink unlawfully,” Hull’s lawsuit alleges.

The business has admitted to at least nine counts of allowing underage drinking in Kansas Department of Revenue Alcoholic Beverage Control cases since 2015, according to the lawsuit. The suit says that for those violations, the Hawk paid more than $8,000 in fines and had its liquor license suspended for four days — for which it closed for a span just before Christmas in 2015.

Hull’s lawsuit also names and demands damages in excess of $75,000 from Tonic, part of a corporation owned by the same man who owns the Hawk, Jonathan Davis.

Kansas Secretary of State records list Davis as the registered agent of both businesses, as well as the rental companies that own the houses on either side of the Hawk, according to Douglas County property records. Hull’s lawsuit claims that the people who assaulted him lived in one of those houses.

As for Tonic, he claims the business failed to provide security for its employees on the outing and also retaliated against him by not scheduling him when doctors cleared him to return to work.

The Hawk and Tonic filed answers denying their businesses were negligent or in any way responsible for Hull’s injuries, and asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

Lawrence police responded and filed a report from the fight, filings in the civil case indicate. The civil suit doesn’t name any of the alleged assailants or indicate that anyone was criminally charged in connection with the fight.

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Dawson Carnell was injured in a fight in September 2017 and filed his lawsuit against the Hawk in February 2018, later adding the name of the employee he says injured him.

Carnell claimed he was on the premises of the Hawk when the employee “became extremely threatening,” charged him and pushed and punched him.

“After the initial attack began additional employees of the defendant continued to attack,” his lawsuit alleges.

Carnell said the employee should have tried to peacefully resolve the situation or call police to do so, but instead “escalated a simple refusal of entry … into an altercation of such violence that the plaintiff was severely injured and an automobile belonging to a third party was seriously damaged.”

Carnell claims the bar was negligent for numerous reasons, including failing to hire competent employees and failing to properly educate them “as to what to do in certain situations of persons on their premises.”

The Hawk, in its response, denied the man’s claims that it was negligent and asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

The accused employee also denied being responsible for the man’s injuries.

“Plaintiff was underaged, intoxicated, and attempting to use a fake identification card to sneak onto Jayhawk Café, Inc.’s property after previously being denied entry,” attorneys for Alec Desch wrote.

Further, Desch said, Carnell tried to strike or physically assault him.

Case documents indicate that Lawrence police did investigate the incident. No related criminal charges against Desch or Carnell were filed in District Court, according to a search of court records.

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The suits are the second and third similar complaints against the Hawk in recent years.

In late 2018, the bar settled with a man who sued after being hurt in a January 2017 fight there.

The man had claimed a bar employee who was underage and drinking on the job hit him with a bottle, leaving him with a concussion. The Hawk countered that the employee wasn’t on the clock, and the employee said he reacted in self-defense when the plaintiff and his friends surrounded him and swung first.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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