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Duluth strip club owner must go back to court on gun charge

Norshor Experience James Gradishar was charged last year with carrying a firearm into his strip club. The charges were dismissed by the district court, but the Court of Appeals has reversed that decision. (file / News Tribune)

It appears the owner of the Norshor Experience strip club in downtown Duluth will return to court on a charge of carrying a firearm in a public place while under the influence of alcohol.

In a decision released Tuesday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the district court erred in October when it dismissed the charge against 46-year-old James Gradishar. The three-judge panel reversed the district court decision and sent the case back to the trial court.

The Court of Appeals said the district court was wrong in excluding from the definition of a "public place'' a place of business owned and managed by the charged person.

According to police reports, Gradishar was intoxicated about 1 a.m. May 2, 2008, when he admitted to an off-duty Duluth police officer working at the Norshor that he was carrying a loaded .22 revolver in his left front pocket.

Gradishar's blood-alcohol concentration was measured at 0.15 percent, almost double the legal limit to drive.

Under Minnesota law, it's a misdemeanor to carry a handgun in a public place when under the influence of alcohol or having a blood-alcohol concentration of more than 0.04 percent.

Gradishar's attorney, Richard Holmstrom, argued that "public place'' as defined in one Minnesota gun statute excludes a place of business owned or managed by a person.

The Court of Appeals ruled that interpretation of the law "compromises public safety and is, therefore, not a reasonable and sensible construction.''

In his October order dismissing the charge against Gradishar, 6th Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden explained why he considers a place of business an exception to a public place: "It seems that the Legislature has always considered a place of business, like one's home, a location where the protection of a handgun was warranted."

In her March appeal, assistant city attorney Terri Lehr argued that there are no exceptions to the law banning the carrying of handguns while intoxicated.

"It was a public safety argument,'' Lehr said Tuesday. "I think the Court of Appeals decision reflects that the purpose of the legislation was to protect the public.''

Holmstrom said he talked to Gradishar on Tuesday to consider their next step. "It appears to me that the Court of Appeals got it wrong," he said, "and, while we haven't made a final decision yet, it's highly likely we will appeal to the Supreme Court.''