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

There’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s the police chief; just ask The Tycoon tavern

In City Hall, Police Department on March 30, 2009 at 11:09 am

The Tycoon tavern in downtown Cedar Rapids has been tangling with the Police Department of late.
Part of it is timing: The liquor establishment at 427 Second Ave. SE needed to renew its liquor license just as still-new Police Chief Greg Graham has decided to knuckle down on taverns that generate too many police calls.

The Tycoon erred, firstly, by not filing for the license renewal in a timely fashion. The city rule is that an establishment needs to make an application at least 30 days in advance to give the city regulators and, most importantly, the Police Department enough time to review the renewal application.

The Tycoon did succeed two weeks ago in getting the City Council to make an exception and put the tavern’s expedited request for a license renewal on the council agenda for discussion.

In the council discussion, though, Police Chief Greg Graham unveiled his new thinking about taverns in need of an alcohol license that also are in the habit of attracting police officers to their establishments.

Upon hearing that police were called to the bar 17 times this year — and the bar was open only a couple evenings a week — the council denied The Tycoon any special treatment. The bar closed — including for the nice revenue-producing day of St. Patrick’s Day — for a couple weeks until the Police Department could review the tavern’s license in the timeline set out in city policy.

The review is complete and The Tycoon now is open under what the Police Department calls a six-month probationary license.

The conditions of probation are … well, they are designed to modify behavior.

For instance:

The Tycoon must pay $2,875 to the city for the 23 hours of investigative work required by the Police Department to determine that The Tycoon didn’t deserve a new liquor license because of the number of police calls to its establishments. That’s 23 hours at $125 per hour.

The Tycoon must have an “adequate number of appropriately trained personnel,” as approve by the Police Department, at all times. The staff should wear identifying shirts that say staff or security. This staff is there to check identifications, to make sure fire-code occupancy limits are followed, to prevent serving people already drunk and to prevent loitering outside the establishment.

The Tycoon should consider a dress code, a cover charge and the use of an electronic metal detector.

The Tycoon shall implement an action plan to immediately reduce the number of police calls for fight, disturbances, assaults, weapons, intoxication, drugs and public urination.

Within six months, The Tycoon will seek to reduce the number of police calls to the tavern to no more than one a week.

During the first month of reopening, the Police Department will bill The Tycoon $125 an hour for any police call over two a week, and after the first month, The Tycoon shall pay $125 an hour for any call over one a week.

The tavern also will pay a $63 “prisoner cost” for each arrest made at the bar.

Police Lt. Tom Jonker told the City Council last week that The Tycoon’s owner, Tim Bushaw, had agreed to work with the Police Department to reduce police calls to the tavern in exchange for a new probationary liquor license.

“The chief is adamant,” Jonker said on Monday. “It’s a privilege not a right to sell alcoholic beverages, and you need to be a good business person and do the right thing and fix errors and correct things that are wrong.”

On April 8, the City Council will hold a public hearing on the liquor license at Brick’s, a downtown bar down Second Avenue SE from The Tycoon. The Police Department is recommending that a new license be denied to Brick’s.

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  1. To me what this looks like is the city is looking for yet another way to bring in money. I hate to say it but, looks like they are going to run more business out of town. Just like they are running the residents out of town. Soon no one will be able to afford to live in Cedar Rapid$. What a disservice the city council is doing to this city and it’s people.

  2. Right, Jane, they’re looking for a way to make money. It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that our tax money has been wasted on policing a poorly run institution. Let the bar owner use his profits to do a better job of running his business, instead of dumping the costs on us, the taxpayer.

  3. The problem with that bar is the owner. … We don’t need an establishment in this town that is run the way this one is.

  4. Sure the city is going to make money,BUT why should our Police Department have to run out to these bars,due to fights,etc. that
    are brought on because the bar’s employees and owners are so intent on making money that they will continue to serve patrons
    even when they become overly intoxicated and/or start becoming
    oveerly agressive.If the bars can’t control their employees and patrons then let them pay when they have to call the Police out.
    The bars need to set up rules and then insure that everyone obeys these rules.If an employee breaks a rule,then fire him or her.If a patron breaks a rule then kick him or her out indefinitely.If it
    is obvious that a person is intoxicated,then cut him or her off,
    then stick them in a cab and send them home.If they refuse to take a cab,THEN call PD.If an employee continues to serve an intoxicated person,then that employee should lose their job.
    This coming down on the Police Department because they are enforcing rules is getting rediculous.It’s time that bar owners start taking more responsibility.

  5. I’m happy Greg Graham is putting the screws to establishments that are failing to put the safety of the community ahead of their own revenue.

    What to go, Chief!

  6. I seem to recall a time when the police were being called to a small little BYOB “performance art” establishment on the SW side multiple times a night, every night of the week. An establishment that has no liquor license, because the state doesn’t permit them to sell alcohol at such a “performance art” location. The problems at the Tycoon are a drop in the bucket compared to the time and money spent patrolling that place, but the Tycoon ends up on the watch list.

    My concern about Tycoon, and now Bricks, is that it seems like the City is moving quickly towards mandating a dress code for downtown establishments that sell alcohol. After all, they want to beautify Downtown, and what better way than by denying access to people in blue jeans and t-shirts? Because, as we all know, if you wear a collared shirt and a tie, you can’t POSSIBLY drink to excess…

    I applaud the new chief for standing up and saying that bar owners need to be responsible business people, but I’m not too sure that he’s going about it in the best way.

  7. I think the time you talk about is before we got our new,”no nonsense”Chief of Police.You,and alot more people,may be thinking that he is being too harsh.That way of thinking is half of what is keeping all of these problems going on.When the owners of these establishments learn that they are going to have to spend extra money,due to not enforcing rules then maybe they’ll start seeing that their employees start doing their jobs and control serving alcohol to someone who has obviously had too much to drink or who is causing a problem.
    Everyone complains about the Police not doing their job of controlling crime,etc. in this town,but when they come up with a good plan to do it,then these same people condemn them for it.I
    say Thank You Chief Graham and go for it.Clean this city up and keep it that way,no matter what you have to do.Most of us are behind you 100%

  8. The real tragedy is that Cedar Rapids has developed a new scheme to take money away from the people you need it most. Hard-working Cedar Rapidians trying to make money like myself are subjected to new rules implemented by the police department that do not seem to accurately fit the reality of what is happening in downtown Cedar Rapids. Having worked in the bar scene of Iowa City and seeing what they do there in comparison to Cedar Rapids, Cedar Rapids seems to come off as a kind of a joke. When the economy is bad and police are doing their jobs, helping themselves into an establishment, there is no need to pay them their salary out of pocket. The police in Cedar Rapids have previously requested that bar owners call them to do walk-throughs. Who knew that they were going to charge? Additionally, the people at all these bars that continue to be shut down are not bad people. And I know for a fact that the bartenders and owners cut intoxicated people off. I have served water to people many times instead of the drink they requested when I saw fit to. The fact is that having lived in Cedar Rapids my entire life, the people frequenting the bars now are a new crop of people coming in from rougher parts of Chicago, etc. and Cedar Rapidians need to step up their game and recognize that not everyone is bad, but no matter what, there are always going to be trouble makers. My advice is that everyone needs to continue to have fun, take things easy, and just watch out for trouble makers, who coincidentally are not the bartenders and bar-owners.

  9. I work at Bricks bar and grill. I am aware of the problems that the tycoon has had in the past. At Bricks we have a full security staff. The police department looks at us as the “problem”. We just want people to come eat, drink, and have a good time. When a problem does happen our security staff handle it. I dont want my employer to get into trouble or loose there licence because someone has a bad day and takes it out on someone elce. I have personally escorted people to a taxi that needed assistance. I believe that Cedar Rapids is becomeing a “police state” I love my job. The owner, managers, and staff do not want to work in an environment that is unsafe and at bricks we do over-all a good job in keeping it safe for people. My only worry is the Police

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