Beaver Dam Seeks Revocation Hearing Against Tavern, Bar Attorney Cites Procedural Missteps

(Beaver Dam) The Beaver Dam Administrative Committee Monday night voted to proceed with a revocation hearing for the liquor license of Johnny’s Lounge. In June, the Madison Street bar was assessed enough points to trigger such action under the city’s Demerit Point Ordinance for a closing-time fight. In July, the committee authorized the city attorney and police chief to enter into negotiations with the tavern owner. Offers by the city included closing for three days over a weekend of the bar owners choosing. The negotiations failed, and the city attorney recommended complete revocation six weeks ago. The committee however – signaling a preference for a lighter penalty – voted against the revocation recommendation. Such a decision can be revisited if an alderperson who voted with the majority calls for another vote. At last months meeting, city officials brought the matter back with the intention of overturning the failed vote. The attorney for Johnny’s Lounge, Brent Eisberner, is challenging the claims (see statement below) but is also crying foul at the procedure. Eisberner says parliamentary procedure under Robert’s Rules of Order as outlined in city ordinance does not allow a matter to be brought back for reconsideration unless it happens at the same meeting or the following day. Moreover, Eisberner says the motion as stated at the meeting was for the city attorney and police chief to again re-open negotiations with the bar not to reconsider the vote rejecting the license revocation hearing. He says that nullifies the proceedings. City Attorney Mary Ann Schacht maintains that proper procedure was followed. Last night’s action allows for the scheduling of a revocation hearing that could result in revocation, suspension or no action taken.

 

Listen to audio of the Beaver Dam Administrative Committee’s August 20 meeting here:

 

 

Official Statement from Johnny’s Lounge:

We believe that what the Administrative committee and the city of Beaver Dam is doing is unjust.  In responding to their actions, we will be challenging not only the contested claims against Johnny’s Lounge, but also the demerit system as it currently stands.  In discussions with the Police Chief and the City Attorney, it was stated that the current system was set up with the specific intention of getting rid of a specific bar.  Once that happened, however, the system remained and has never been adjusted to fit within the specific framework the legislation intended when they enacted Wis. Stat. §125.12.

The evidence we have indicates that: 1) there is an unequal enforcement of the policy; 2) the policy itself exceeds the legislative intent of Wis. Stat §125.12; 3) there is malicious intent by members of the committee in their personal desire to pursue action against Johnny’s Lounge; and, 4) there have been numerous procedural missteps in the required process.

As it currently stands, Johnny’s Lounge has arguments for an unconstitutional taking, an unreasonable or irrational exercise of the Police Power, violations of parliamentary procedure, unequal treatment or application of the law, and specific targeting of their business.

It is unfortunate that it has come to this, but the City of Beaver Dam should be aware that we will not only attempt to invalidate the ordinance as it stands, but also attempt to shift all costs of the litigation onto the city.  In the recent past, businesses have been put “on notice,” given the opportunity to correct any issues regarding physical altercations, and allowed to work with the city to maintain a healthy relationship.  We see no reason why the same should not have occurred with Johnny’s Lounge. Instead, they were specifically targeted by members of the administrative committee, were told that they would be “made an example of,” were denied equal application under the law, and were subjected to a policy that a court will likely find operates outside of legislative intent.

To be clear, the Council will need to find that Johnny’s Lounge “keeps or maintains a disorderly or riotous, indecent or improper house.”  It is absurd to think that a single event rises to the definition of a “disorderly or riotous, indecent or improper house.”  As the ordinance currently stands, and any establishment with a liquor license is threatened by, any one incident involving a physical altercation is grounds for revocation of their liquor license.  This clearly exceeds the legislative intent and is a direct result of the city’s stated objective in passing an ordinance directed at permanently closing a single tavern years ago.