Common Council upholds suspension/revocation findings

At last night’s Common Council meeting, the decisions of the Licensing & Permit (L&P) Committee regarding the suspensions/revocations of the licenses of several establishments were upheld.

CVS Pharmacy

In the matter of the CVS Pharmacy, located at 3726 – 22nd Avenue, the findings of the L&P Committee were to suspend the beer/liquor license for 30 consecutive days and reinstate subject to 80 demerit points.  This was approved by the Council by a vote of 15 to 2 (Alderpersons Rocco LaMacchia and Tod Ohnstad were the two dissenting voters).

Larry Cohen, an attorney for CVS, and John Boyk, the Wisconsin and Illinois district manager for CVS, had objected to the recommendation of the L& P Committee.  Cohen said that the individuals responsible had been terminated the following day.  “We have a zero tolerance policy.  We are embarrassed that this occurred.  We’ve installed three various  machines.”  Boyk then explained that CVS has 7,600 stores across the U.S., and that 70% of them sell beer, spirits, alcohol, and tobacco.  “We are committed to upholding the laws of the municipalities we serve.”  He then explained the driver’s license reader equipment they installed, the compliance training they provide, and the fact that the cashier needs to also input the birth date into the register to sell alcohol.

Cohen raised an issue with the time period between two of the violations being  within the one year period limitation, thereby shaving off 20 demerit points from the total.  Instead of 120 demerit points, this would have brought the total to 100 points, still a condition for a revocation hearing.  Steve Cain, the L&P Committee’s attorney, stated that this may or may not have changed the Committee’s decision.

The CVS reps wanted the recommendation of the L&P Committee rescinded, or assessed with the minimum amount of time, and/or assessed a fine in lieu of the suspension.

Alderperson Michael Orth wanted to know if the same equipment was going to be installed at other CVS stores, and Cohen said that they had no problem installing the readers in all stores.  In fact, Cohen said that he would recommend that to their general counsel the following morning.

Alderperson Daniel Prozanski said that he appreciated CVS coming, but he didn’t understand why it took four violations for the driver’s license readers to be installed.  “This is all after the fact.  It’s like my kids saying they’re sorry.  It’s a pattern here.”  The Council voted to uphold the penalty of the suspension of the license for 30 days.

Rendezvous Tiki Lounge

Former Alderperson Ray Misner again appeared with the licensee on behalf of the Rendezvous Tiki Lounge, located at 1700 – 52nd Street.  The L&P Committee had recommended suspension of the combination and outdoor extension licenses for 15 consecutive days and reinstatement subject to 80 demerit points.  Again, Misner pled the case of the licensee’s decade of good business without any problems.  “He had a few bad days,” Misner said.  He made the same arguments as at the last meeting.  To read the article about the previous meeting, click here:  “Liquor Licenses Ruled On At Common Council Meeting.”

Misner stated that the L&P Committee needed to be fair.  He also stated that he felt the Committee’s decision was ‘overkill’ and not fair, and that it was hurting a small business.  Reservations for holiday parties needed to be cancelled.

Prozanski said that, like his comments for the previous establishment, “it’s saying sorry after the fact.”  He made a motion to revise the recommendation from 15 to 30 days in order to keep consistent with the CVS recommendation, and LaMacchia seconded the motion.  However, Alderperson Jesse Downing wouldn’t support that.  “These are two different licenses here,” said Downing.

Alderperson Anthony Kennedy said that he was not supporting the amendment.  He talked about intention.  He referred back to the revocation hearing where the licensee appeared without a consultant.  Kennedy stated that the licensee talked about the bartender having a bad day, selling to an underage person on May 19th.  Then, the same bartender sold again to an underage person on June 24th.  Kennedy said that there was no corrective action taken after those two incidents.  “And,” Kennedy then said, “what really did it for me was the purchase of alcohol from unauthorized sources.  I could see one or two bottles, but in excess of 24 bottles?  And, then he said that he wanted to try open mike night out.  He didn’t have a cabaret license, and he knew that he should have had a license.  It’s all about intention.”

Alderperson Patrick Juliana agreed with Kennedy.  He felt that violation # 10 (the purchase of alcohol from unauthorized sources) warranted the 15 days in an of itself.  “These are local ordinances, State and Federal laws.  This is the reason that the 15 days is more than fair.  The laws are made for everyone.  All need to abide by them.”  He urged everyone to “think real hard on # 10.”

Prozanski reminded everyone that the number of demerit points was 200.  “That’s two times the amount needed for revocation.”  He asked Cain if the law views CVS differently from the Tiki Lounge.  These are not the same licenses.  CVS has a combination beer/alcohol consume off-premises license (Class A license), and the tavern has a Class B license, a combination beer/alcohol consume on premises and off.  Prozanski wanted to know what the state penalty was for the unauthorized alcohol purchase.  Deputy city attorney Matt Knight looked up the information in Chapter 125, and found that the forfeiture is not more than $1,000 per violation.  Prozanski then wanted to amend his motion from the 30 days penalty to $24,000.  He said that if his first motion failed, that’s what he’ll be doing.  Knight interjected though, that the Tiki Lounge did not get cited by the state, only the municipality.  Therefore, they are not subject to the forfeiture penalties.

Downing wanted to remind everyone on the Common Council that the demerit point system is just a tracking system.  “We don’t use the demerit points to decide punishment.  Yes, it’s against state law.  We had a letter from the Department of Revenue dated back in the ’90’s.  But, the demerit points are not to be used as a penalty.”

Prozanski reminded everyone that “licenses are a privilege.”  Alderperson Michael Orth was concerned about the newspaper articles saying that “we are liberalizing and getting tough.  We need to hold people responsible.  We need to stiffen the process to approach the violators, and let them know that this is not tolerated in our community.  The suspension needs to take place.”

Prozanski’s motion to amend the suspension from 15 to 30 days failed by a vote of 3 to 14.  Alderpersons LaMacchia, Scott Gordon, and Prozanski were the three assenting voters.

Misner wanted to question something else, but he was not allowed to.  The vote on the 15-day suspension was approved by a vote of 16 to 1.  LaMacchia was the sole dissenting voter.  Misner was heard to make a few comments:  “There were comments made that should not have been made.  We will be filing a law suit.”

Clubhouse Pub & Grille

The  recommendation of the L&P Committee to approve subject to 60 demerit points and suspend the outdoor extension license for a period of 90 days for the Clubhouse Pub & Grille, located at 2621 – 30th Avenue, was approved by a unanimous roll call vote of 17 to 0.  There was no further discussion on this item.

Bragados Banquets

In the matter of Bragados Banquets, located at 4820 – 75th Street, the recommendation by the L&P Committee and affirmation of the administrative suspension to suspend the cabaret license for 90 days, was upheld by the Common Council by a roll call vote of 15 to 2.  Those voting against were Alderpersons David Bogdala and Kennedy. The license has been suspended since November 2nd.

Marco Mendez, the license holder for the business, apologized to the Common Council.  He said that the 90-day suspension is “brutal.  It’s hurting us in many ways.  I realize that I have to make changes to the operations if I want to continue doing business in Kenosha.  I am requesting that the suspension be minimized to 30 days.  It’s killing us.  We had no problem for our whole first year.  Mistakes were made.  There were technical aspects of the business that we didn’t understand.  We didn’t create any problems for anyone.  We’ve already served our first 30 days.  It’s been brutal.”

Prozanski asked the police chief what kind of calls were made to this business.  John Morrissey’s reply was that there were fights, police pursuits, gun calls, a woman got hit in the face with a bottle, and drugs.  Prozanski asked the chief if Bragados Banquets was on the same track as the former Three Sisters, which was located at 39th Avenue and 6th Street.  Morrissey said yes.  “The ordinance was used to suspend the license because of Three Sisters.  This is only the second time in five years that I’ve invoked my authority in this manner.”

Prozanski made the statement, “When police resources are used, like at Pazzo’s, many officers responding leaves the city vulnerable.  Morrissey said that all but two police officers on duty during the most recent incident were dispatched to respond.  Prozanski said that the L&P Committee went in a different direction with Pazzo’s.  “This business is in my district.  I want the business to succeed, but not at the expense of public safety,” he said.

Alderperson David Bogdala went a step further.  “These 20 calls for service, with weapons, etc., leaves the remainder of the city lacking for services.  Because of one establishment, it’s giving me great concern.  Ninety days is not enough.”  Bogdala made a motion to amend the 90-day suspension on the cabaret license to revocation.

Kennedy asked that the Common Council vote that Bogdala’s motion not pass.  He explained how he sat down with Mendez when he first opened the establishment (it was in his district at the time).  “Mendez gave me his word that it was not going to be a bar or a nightclub.  He said that it was going to be a restaurant/banquet hall.  I felt betrayed.  And, when I hear about officers being concerned about their safety, I do think that 90 days is not enough.  I know this sounds “wishy-washy.”  Mendez made the financial decision to go after a business model that makes his business more profitable.  We didn’t have an operator who ignored the problems.  He did add security and other proactive things, so Mr. Mendez shouldn’t be revoked.  He tried to mitigate the conditions by adding security to control the rowdy crowd.  The chief mentioned drugs.  Where in the chief’s complaint are drugs mentioned?”

Knight said that drugs were not mentioned specifically in the chief’s complaint.  There was one officer who observed drugs being passed in the parking lot, but evidence was not presented, and no charges were filed.

Kennedy continued, “We have had active hands-on management here.  At other places, they let the bar managers handle it, not here.  He was there.  His efforts are lacking, but he tried to deal with them honestly.  It’s a difficult situation.  He tried to manage, and he shouldn’t lose his business, his livelihood.”

Police Chief Morrissey stated that he met with Mendez for two hours, and he told him that he would be changing his business plan.  “I am not supporting anything less than a 90-day suspension.  I didn’t believe the business he talked about is what he’s running.  I was not in the closed sessions.  If he follows through, then he’ll do fine.  We don’t need more empty businesses in this town, but we also don’t need businesses like this.”

Prozanski said that he supported revoking the cabaret license.  He doesn’t support the 90 days at the expense of public safety.  “If that’s the only way to assure public safety, then that’s the way we should go.  It’s not worth losing sleep over one closed business.  I won’t compromise public safety.  It’s either revocation or a 90-day suspension.  If that changes, let us know.”

Alderperson Scott Gordon wanted to know how many calls to the banquet hall were received since the administrative suspension, and Morrissey said one.  He couldn’t remember what it was for, but citations were issued.

Bogdala continued with the issue of “imminent danger to officer safety,” which leaves the city exposed.  “We are all exposed,” he said.  Kennedy did agree it was a threat to public safety and welfare, and he said that the license should be revoked.

Juliana said that he asked Mendez to explain to him the difference between a banquet hall and a nightclub.  Juliana believes that it’s the live DJ entertainment and the music that is played that is the problem.  “These people are a bunch of garbage can, low-life’s creating problems,” he said.  “I don’t want to lose police officers.  The agent admits to the problem and said he’ll change it.  I feel 90 days is appropriate.  I’m not backing off.”

Juliana continued, “Committees are the work engine of the Council.  I trust the owner of the license.  If he comes back again, there will be a big ‘revocation’ stamp on it.  I will not vote for revocation.  I feel the L&P Committee recommendation is appropriate.”

Kennedy feels that Mendez is honest.  “He’s faced challenges in pursuing a business model that is difficult to control.  He’s not attempting to cover.  He has acknowledged his problems.  The revocation doesn’t allow him the opportunity to keep his word to the Common Council.  I’ll back off the 60.”

Haugaard wanted to know how many incidents there were from September 1st through October 30th.  He wanted to know if Morrissey addressed the DJ performances with Mendez.  He hoped that Morrissey didn’t wait until October 30th.  Morrissey said that he didn’t.  “The license holder assumed the root cause of the problem.  He should have been aware; I don’t know.  He said that his staff was not fully hones with him.  Maybe you should direct that question to him.  He’s been open, honest, and forthright.”

Haugaard wanted to know if Morrissey had seen the ads.  Morrissey said yes.  They were getting intelligence from other establishments and other communities.  Morrissey said that there have been two shootings in the city.  He said that he didn’t think the ads themselves were threatening.

Haugaard then asked Mendez, “Why, between September 1st and October 30th, were you not aware of imminent danger?”  Mendez’s reply was that there were 20 service calls.  He said that not one word was conveyed to him from the police officers or the security personnel.  “Not one report from the 20 calls.  Now, I will be working with the police and the community.  If the DJ’s flyers make fun of someone, that doesn’t have to do with me.  I’m just renting the establishment, running a clean business.  There’s always hiccups here and there.  I’m not saying I’m not responsible.”

Mendez gave copies of his implementation plan to Alderpersons Chris Schwartz and Kennedy.  “I’m not falling for the same thing again.  I’m going to work with the police department to avoid problems.”  Haugaard said that he disagreed with some of Mendez’s position.

Downing relayed his story about a night about one month before when he went to the establishment, sat in the parking lot for two hours, and then followed the police to another establishment.  There were about 150 people in the crowd.  He said that he saw no danger to the public.  He saw some women with loud mouths, but no fights.  “You know how alcohol gives people beer muscles,” he said.  He didn’t think that the license should be revoked, but that the 90-day suspension should be given.  “Cease this,” he said.  “If he comes in front of us again, then revoke him.”

Bogdala said that he was more convinced now that his motion was correct, especially after hearing Downing’s story.  “When you have to have a squad there, that means that that’s one other squad not somewhere else.  On a Friday or Saturday night, the call would go into a higher priority.  That’s a problem.  We need to stop that.”

Bogdala had a question for Morrissey.  He wanted to know about the most recent incident on October 27th.  Morrissey said there was ” a pursuit, officers there, a woman with a loaded gun, shots fired, a woman’s face opened up by a beer bottle, blood and fights inside.”  Bogdala said, “We want to send a clear message, not 90 days.  We want to revoke this.  Thank God my colleague was safe that night he was there.  We need to take action today.”

Orth said that he used to be the alderperson of the district.  He had the same comments as Kennedy.  “I told Marco Mendez directly that Kenosha was not interested in another Three Sisters.  While they were hosting their DJ events, I never received one phone call of complaint about that business.  Maybe because it’s in a business area, there are two vacant buildings, train tracks behind the building, it’s an isolated building.  It’s not Kenosha back there, it’s Pleasant Prairie.  It looks like Pazzo’s.  The problems are outside their downtown establishment, not their concern.  It’s outside their doors.  This doesn’t mean it’s not the responsibility of the establishment.  It is.  I’m voting for the suspension.  Be tough, not revoke.  It’s a safety concern.  The 90 days is appropriate.”

The roll call vote for the amendment to change the recommendation to a revocation failed by a vote of 7 to 10.  Those voting for the revocation were Alderpersons G. John Ruffolo, Kevin Mathewson, Keith Rosenberg, Scott Gordon, Steve Bostrom, Daniel Prozanski, and David Bogdala.

The next roll call vote was for the recommendation of the L&P Committee, the 90-day suspension.  Bogdala stated that he voted against the suspension in protest to the amendment that just failed.  The vote was 15 to 2 in favor of the suspension.  Bogdala and Kennedy voted against the suspension.

____________

On another agenda item, the Council did vote to send the matter of the bartender’s license of Joan Marie Eckert back to the L&P Committee for further review.  She spoke about the fact that she was in the middle of a move and did not know that she was supposed to appear, even though the committee had documentation that she was served personally. She said that she saw the information about her revocation in the paper.

Kennedy felt that it was not fair to take a person’s livelihood because she filled out the application wrong.  “She was here pleading for mercy today.  I just want her to understand the seriousness of this matter.”  He made a motion to suspend her license for 45 days, not revoke her license.

Alderperson Tod Ohnstad made the motion to refer it back to the committee, and Ruffolo agreed.  “Forty-five days is a harsh penalty.”  The second on the suspension was then withdrawn.

Downing, the chairman of the L&P Committee, said that, “If we send it back to the L&P Committee, I don’t want to hear any excuses from neighbors.  We will not chase you all over town.  If you don’t come to the review, we will be back here for revocation.”

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