Dyson v. City of Calumet City

Decision Date23 January 2018
Docket NumberNo. 16 C 11509,16 C 11509
Parties Shaneka DYSON, Jump N' Jam Inflatables, Inc., and the Atrium Venue, Inc., Plaintiffs, v. The CITY OF CALUMET CITY, Michelle Qualkinbush, Nyota Figgs, Randy Barron, James Patton, Sheryl Tillman, Donna Zwart, and Willam Nadey, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Stephen A. Berrios, Brendan Shiller, Mary Johanna Grieb, Shiller Preyar Law Offices, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiffs.

Matthew J. Byrne, Michael Joseph Hayes, Jr., Michael J. McGrath, Michael Kevin Smith, Odelson & Sterk, Ltd., Evergreen Park, IL, Brittany Erin Hartwig, James J. Roche, James J. Roche & Associates, Chicago, IL, for Defendants.


John J. Tharp, Jr., United States District Judge

This case arises out of a decision by Calumet City (the "City") to deny Plaintiff Shaneka Dyson a business license to operate a banquet hall. Dyson, along with two of her businesses, Jump N' Jam Inflatables, Inc. ("JNJ") and The Atrium Venue, Inc. (the "Atrium"),1 have filed suit against the City and several of its officials, alleging, among other theories, that the City's handling of her license application violated her federal and state equal protection and due process rights, as well as constituted a taking without just compensation. The defendants responded by moving to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state any claim for relief. Because the Court concludes that the complaint does not plausibly allege any federal constitutional violations, it grants the defendants' motion with respect to Dyson's federal claims and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims. Nevertheless, the complaint is dismissed without prejudice. Dyson is afforded another opportunity to address the deficiencies outlined in this opinion, if she is able. Any amended pleading is due no later than February 23, 2017.


The following facts are drawn from the complaint and are taken as true for purposes of the defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Yeftich v. Navistar, Inc. , 722 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2013). Dyson has owned and operated JNJ in Calumet City for several years. (Compl. ¶ 15.) In early 2015, she sought to open a banquet hall called the Atrium. (Id. ¶ 16.) Dyson executed a lease agreement in March 2015 that allowed her to combine the property used to operate JNJ with the property next door, and renovate both into a banquet hall. (Id. ¶¶ 16–18.) (The two properties have since been converted into a single address—1582 Huntington Drive in Calumet City—and are referred to in this opinion simply as the "property.") On the same day, Dyson applied to the City for a business license to operate a banquet hall. (Id. ¶ 19.)

Dyson started the process for obtaining City approval to renovate the property in March 2015 as well. After meeting with city inspectors and a city engineer, Dyson's drawings were approved for "assembly" and she was instructed by Defendant Randy Barron, the then-director of inspectoral services, to apply for building permits, which would allow her to begin the necessary renovations. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 20–22.) In June 2015, Dyson was issued three building permits; one for plumbing, one for electrical work, and another for a sprinkler system. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 28–29.) In reliance of these building permits, Dyson began renovating the property. (Id. ¶¶ 26, 30.)

Around the same time Dyson applied for building permits, she also inquired with the City about obtaining a liquor license. (Id. ¶ 23.) That inquiry attracted the attention of Defendant Michelle Qualkinbush, the mayor of Calumet City, who visited the site in April 2015. (Id. ) The following month, Dyson emailed the mayor an explanation of her business proposal. (Id. ¶ 24.) Dyson followed up with Qualkinbush about her proposal "every few days" thereafter, and on June 11, 2015, Qualkinbush informed Dyson that she would bring the liquor license request before the city council. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 27.) The two met again on August 4, 2015, at which time Qualkinbush told Dyson that the liquor license would be discussed and decided during a city council meeting the following week. (Id. ¶ 31.)

Later in August, however, Dyson's business plan began to unravel. At first, she was informed that the property passed its electrical and plumbing inspections and that an occupancy permit would be issued once an HVAC problem was corrected. (Id. ¶¶ 32–33.) But then, on August 27, 2015, Qualkinbush informed Dyson that the property "had outstanding issues with zoning" and that she would need to present her liquor license request to the city council personally during a meeting in early September. (Id. ¶ 24.) The following day, Barron delivered a letter to Dyson which indicated that "no further permits would be issued" until Dyson obtained a business license. (Id. ¶ 35.) The letter further stated that "a banquet hall" or "special venue meeting room" license was not "permitted under the current zoning of the property" and that "the Zoning Board and City Council must approve a change in the zoning to permit this use." (Id. ; see also id. ¶ 36.) According to Dyson, late August was the first time she was "made aware there was an issue with how the property was zoned." (Id. ¶ 34.) Moreover, between May 2015, when she obtained her first building permit, and August 28, 2015, the date she received the letter from Barron, Dyson spent over $150,000 renting and renovating the property. (Id. ¶ 42.)

In September 2015, Dyson attempted to get her business plan back on track. She first attended a city council meeting on September 8, 2015, during which she met briefly with Alderman Antoine Collins and obtained a dry bar permit for the property. (Id. ¶ 43.) Later in September, Dyson filed a petition with the Calumet City Zoning Board of Appeals ("ZBA") to allow her banquet hall as a special use. (Id. ¶ 44.) The ZBA held a public hearing on that request on November 2, 2015, and ten days later, issued its findings and recommendations to the city council. (Id. ¶ 45.) By a vote of two to two, the ZBA determined not to favorably recommend Dyson's special use application. (Id. ) The following month, on December 10, 2015, the city council met and adopted the ZBA's finding and recommendations, thereby "codifying" the denial of Dyson's request. (Id. ¶ 47.) The city attorney then sent Dyson a letter on December 18, 2015, which stated that she would not be issued a business or liquor license for the property. (Id. ¶ 48.) Dyson inquired about how to appeal the decision (with whom, the complaint does not say), and was informed that she "would have to begin the process anew." (Id. ¶ 49.)

In May 2016, Dyson submitted a second application for a business license, but proposed a new business plan. Instead of operating a banquet hall, she proposed to open a youth center for teens called the "JNJ Spot, Inc." (Id. ¶ 50.) Dyson followed up on this application several times over the next month. In early June, she emailed Defendant James Patton, the special assistant to the mayor, to check on the status of this application. (Id. ¶ 53.) Patton responded that the application was in the process for zoning approval by Rose Bonato of the City Clerk's office. (Id. ) Two weeks later, Dyson followed up with Bonato, but was told there "was no update" on the application. (Id. ¶¶ 54–55.)

Having still not received a resolution on her request, (id. ¶ 56), Dyson filed suit in December 2016. She alleges in her complaint that the City's handling of her business license and special use requests violated numerous federal and Illinois constitutional guarantees, including equal protection, due process, and the prohibition of takings without just compensation. Dyson further alleges that city officials conspired to violate her constitutional rights and that the denial of her requests amount to tortious interference of contract and business expectancy, as Dyson lost future clients and business when she was unable to open her banquet hall. In April 2017, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that Dyson failed to state any claim for relief. (Defs. Joint Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 30.) The motion having been fully briefed, the Court finds that none of Dyson's claims may proceed to discovery as alleged.


The defendants move to dismiss the complaint in its entirety under Rule 12(b)(6). To overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, "a complaint must ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ " Adams v. City of Indianapolis , 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) ). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." W. Bend Mut. Ins. Co. v. Schumacher , 844 F.3d 670, 675 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) ). This Court "must accept as true all factual allegations in the ... complaint and draw all permissible inferences" in Dyson's favor. Id. (quoting Bible v. United Student Aid Funds, Inc. , 799 F.3d 633, 639 (7th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted) ). However, "[w]hile a plaintiff need not plead ‘detailed factual allegations’ to survive a motion to dismiss, she still must provide more than mere ‘labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action’ for her complaint to be considered adequate under [Rule] 8." Bell v. City of Chicago , 835 F.3d 736, 738 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 ).

Dyson's federal claims rest on 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under section 1983, "a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged...

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