The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

The Tycoon closed for St. Pat’s; City Council backs police remediation plan to reform rowdy bars

In City Hall, Police Department on March 16, 2009 at 5:52 pm

The owner of downtown bar The Tycoon managed to convince five council members to put his expedited case for  liquor-license renewal on the agenda of a special noon council meeting on Monday. The meeting had been called for another reason, the selection the city’s new Local-Option Sales Tax Oversight Committee.

Why the rush for the bar? Tuesday is St. Patrick’s Day. What bar doesn’t want to be open for St. Patrick’s Day seemed to be at least part of the reason The Tycoon’s plight surfaced at City Hall on Monday.

The Tycoon shouldn’t have bothered.

For starters, The Tycoon needed a quick license renewal because it had failed to abide by the city procedure that requires a 30-day notice for such a renewal. The 30-day period gives the Police Department time to conduct a routine check to see if the bar’s license should be renewed.

Council member Justin Shields was sympathetic to The Tycoon when he first moved see if the bar’s license renewal could be expedited.

But Shields withdrew his interest in the expedited renewal after a presentation by Police Chief Greg Graham and comments by City Manager Jim Prosser.

Graham noted that police had been called to The Tycoon 17 times since the first of the year, a “high” number for a bar of its size, especially so since the bar has been open only two nights a week, the chief said.

Many of those calls to the police were from the bar owner or bar employees, noted Graham, which he said was a good thing.

“But clearly, he’s not doing enough,” the chief said of the owner, Tim Bushaw.

Graham said bar owners can take steps to reduce the need for police calls by making sure they have an adequate number of employees on duty, by banning misbehaving customers or by not serving too much to those who have had too much to drink.

The Police Department’s plan had been to handle The Tycoon much as it handled the R & R Corner Bar, 700 E Ave. NW, a few months ago. That plan would give the bar a six-month license if the bar owner was willing to sign an agreement to improve bar behavior and so cut down on the number of police calls.

City Manager Jim Prosser called the effort “problem-solving” and not punishment.

“We are not security for bars or other liquor establishments,” he said.

One possibility on Monday was to grant The Tycoon an expedited liquor-license renewal if it was willing to enter into an agreement with the Police Department to find a way to reduce police calls to the bar.

But Shields withdrew his interest, saying the owner’s version of police activity at the bar had not squared with the Police Department’s documentation of calls.

In the future, council member Tom Podzimek said businesses that miss important deadlines like this need to pay penalties to the city. Those penalties will help people meet deadlines and will help the city defray extra costs that come when it tries to expedite services, he said.

The Police Department had to hustle its review of The Tycoon after the owner managed to make it in expedited fashion to Monday’s council agenda.

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