The future of Johnny’s Lounge is in serious jeopardy.
On Monday, the administrative committee of the Beaver Dam Common Council voted against renewing the liquor license and tavern/dance license for the bar at 519 Madison St. The committee made the decision following a recommendation from Police Chief John Kreuziger.
“This for me, it’s a very difficult decision, but it’s for the safety for the general public,” Kreuziger said.
He said he made his decision based on five incidents over the past two years.
The first incident place in October 2017, when a woman was accused of serving her boyfriend alcohol while he was on a no-alcohol order. She pleaded no contest to related charges. Then last June, a man allegedly punched another man, causing injury, and Johnny’s employees did not notify police. The man accused of starting a fight received a citation, but was not criminally charged.
The third incident, from December, involves a woman under the age of 21, who should not have been in the bar, and allegedly threw a bottle at another woman and hit her with a glass. She is currently facing criminal charges. The fourth incident involves a 19-year-old who was allegedly at the bar without a guardian or spouse, as seen in a Snapchat photo.
The fifth incident is related to the early April death of Jared Frakes. His girlfriend, Cindy Lara Esparza, has been charged with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle following a crash into the Beaver Dam River that claimed Frakes’ life. Police allege that Johnny’s was the last place the couple drank that night.
“I advise you it’s the totality of the circumstances, all five cases,” Kreuziger said.
Johnny’s Lounge has received demerit points from the police department over the first four incidents. Aaron Haller represented tavern owner Amanda Hammen in front of the administrative committee on Monday. Haller is an associate of Brent Eisberner, the attorney who has been handling the case for the past several months. He was unable to attend Monday.
“I’m just not convinced that these five cases can be considered collectively,” Haller said.
Haller said that his firm did not have enough information to prepare because it did not know that the tavern/dance license was under consideration. Liquor licenses are renewed annually under state statute and expire every year at the end of June.
Haller said that some of the incidents were too old to be considered under the law, happening more than a year ago. He said it was inappropriate to consider other incidents that have not yet been resolved in the courts.
“Considering my client’s livelihood is at risk, I think further examination is required,” Haller said.
He said the incidents come down to decisions on the parts of individuals, not anything Johnny’s Lounge did or didn’t do. As for the third incident, Haller and Hammen said that the woman involved, Topacio Calderon, used her older sister’s ID, and that she has been caught doing the same thing elsewhere. Police claim there is no evidence of IDs being checked.
Committee members Kay Appenfeldt, Mick Fischer, Kara Nelson and Kevin Burnett voted against renewing the tavern’s license. Ken Anderson and David Hansen abstained due to conflicts of interest. Jaclyn Shelton was absent.
The current license lasts through the end of June. City Attorney Maryann Schacht said rejection of the license renewal could go to a special hearing, but nothing is currently scheduled. Since the city council has no meetings scheduled prior to the end of June, it also would require a special call of the city council, which has final approval of liquor licenses.
The Common Council already voted to suspend the bar’s liquor license for 15 days over two of the demerit point incidents. Johnny’s Lounge sued, and the suspension did not go into effect because of the legal action.
Johnny’s believes that the demerit point system is being applied unequally across to the city’s bars, with evidence of officials having a bias, and that the system itself has its own legal and constitutional issues.
Eisberner has said that he is prepared to file a federal lawsuit against the city over the demerit system.
The committee decided to renew the liquor license renewal for Quality Inn, 815 Park Ave., but not issue it until the business pays what is owed in room taxes. The hotel operates a bar on its first floor.