BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Cordell Carter can take a punch. But he said the battle he’s now found himself in isn’t really a fair fight.
Carter and the now-closed Carter’s Sports Bar in Birmingham are being sued by a fight promotor for allegedly illegally showing multiple UFC fights without paying the appropriate license fee. Carter said the claims are false – the bar played only what was readily available in their basic cable package.
Carter isn’t alone. Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. has also filed suit against two other Alabama venues – SEC Bar and Grill and the Lobby – over allegedly illegal fight showings. 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 cafe in northern Illinois.
The lawsuits come in the wake of a legal victory for the promotion company. In September, a federal appeals court ruled that legal actions against establishments allegedly violating the company’s copyright may move forward.
Cordell Carter said he thinks the company’s legal strategy amounts to a shakedown. He doesn’t believe the company has any actual evidence that he showed the fights in question because it simply didn’t happen.
“They’re definitely just guessing,” Carter said. “If it was anything that had to be paid for, we didn’t show it.”
Carter, who said the bar was actually owned by an elderly family member, reviewed a list of the fights Joe Hand Promotions claims were illegally shown at the venue.
“I don’t even know who these people are,” he said.
Carter said that small businesses like Carter’s Sports Bar often struggle to stay afloat – the bar actually closed over six months ago because of low revenue in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local small businesses like that don’t have the cash to pay thousands in license fees, he said, so they don’t play content like UFC fights.
The license fees at issue in the recent appeals court case ranged from $3,700 to $15,700 depending on the establishment’s capacity, according to court documents.
Those costs could never have reasonably been paid by Carter’s Sports Bar, Carter said. That’s why they chose not to air pay-per-view type content.
If the establishment had wanted to let patrons watch a fight, does Carter think paying thousands of dollars to air it in a small bar is fair?
“Hell no that’s not fair,” he said. “Hell, that bar never made five grand in a whole weekend. So why would you pay money you’re not even going to make back?”
Efforts to reach SEC Bar and Grill were unsuccessful Wednesday. When a representative of the Lobby was reached for comment, they responded with one word: “Huh.”