Bars in Alabama become latest targets of fight organizer lawsuits

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Cordell Carter can take a hit. But he said the fight he is in now is not a fair fight.

Carter and the now-closed Carter’s Sports Bar in Birmingham are being sued by a fight promoter for allegedly illegally showing multiple UFC fights without paying the appropriate license fee. Carter said the claims were false – the bar only played what was readily available in their basic cable package.

Carter is not alone. Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. has also filed lawsuits against two other Alabama venues – SEC Bar and Grill and the Lobby – for allegedly illegal fight demonstrations. In November alone, Joe Hand Promotions sued more than forty establishments across the country — a trampoline park in Kansas, a pool hall in Kentucky, a Jamaican coffee shop in northern Illinois.

The lawsuits follow a court victory for the development company. In September, a federal appeals court ruled that legal action could be taken against entities allegedly infringing the company’s copyright.

Cordell Carter said he believes the company’s legal strategy amounts to a shakedown. He doesn’t think the company actually has evidence that he showed the fights in question because it just didn’t happen.

“You’re definitely just guessing,” Carter said. “If something had to be paid for, we didn’t show it.”

Carter, who said the bar was actually owned by an elderly family member, checked a list of fights that Joe Hand Promotions claims were illegally shown at the venue.

“I don’t even know who these people are,” he said.

Carter said small businesses like Carter’s Sports Bar often struggle to stay afloat — the bar actually closed more than six months ago due to low revenue amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Local small businesses like this don’t have the money to pay thousands in royalties, he said, so they don’t play content like UFC fights.

The royalties disputed on appeal ranged from $3,700 to $15,700, depending on the capacity of the facility, according to court documents.

Carter’s Sports Bar could never reasonably have paid those costs, Carter said. Because of this, they have chosen not to air any pay-per-view content.

If the establishment wanted patrons to see a fight, does Carter think it’s fair to pay thousands of dollars to air it in a small bar?

“Hell no, that’s not fair,” he said. “Damn, this bar never made five grand in a whole weekend. So why are you paying money that you are not even getting back?”

Efforts to reach SEC Bar and Grill were unsuccessful Wednesday. When a lobby representative was reached out for comment, they responded with one word: “Huh.”

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