Johnny’s Lounge will be Johnny’s no more.
On Monday, the Beaver Dam Common Council approved a provisional liquor license and tavern dance license through Oct. 18 for Gregg Clark of Beaver Dam, who will lease the building at 519 Madison St. that formerly housed Johnny’s Lounge. Johnny’s Lounge lost its liquor license in June under the city’s demerit point system.
The new bar will be known as Clark’s.
“I saw an opportunity to make a little money,” Clark said.
He said he would keep some of the old staff, and maybe even have a bouncer on the weekends. He said he will be open weekdays 3 p.m. to bar close and weekends 11 a.m. to bar close. He’ll keep the same menu.
“I don’t want any riff raff,” Clark said.
Clark is leasing the building and said he will keep the old Johnny’s sign up, even with the official name change. The building is listed for sale at $365,000. It’s still owned by the namesake John Hammen, according to county records.
Following a string of incidents over the past two years, the Common Council voted to take away the bar’s liquor license, held by Amanda Hammen, John Hammen’s wife. Johnny’s has remained open, serving food in the early morning hours on some nights — just no alcohol. Amanda Hammen has ongoing legal cases related to the city’s action.
Police Chief John Kreuziger said there are no issues or concerns with the new license.
Recent police response to fights at other bars in town, like the Thirsty Beaver and Tower Lanes, that did not lead to demerit points being assessed have brought up questions over whether the demerit system is being applied fairly.
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One of Amanda Hammen’s arguments in her lawsuits is that Johnny’s Lounge was unfairly targeted by the city, and that officials had a bias against her establishment, while other bars escaped consequences for similar incidents.
For example, one woman accused of drinking underage at Johnny’s and then starting a fight appeared inside at least one other bar according to testimony given at a demerit point hearing for Johnny’s.
Kreuziger said in the two demerit point incidents at Johnny’s Lounge involving fights, the bar either didn’t call police or the fight involved an underage drinker. The other two incidents involved a woman who served her boyfriend while he was on a no-drink order and a photo of an underage drinker.
Kreuziger said the said the key to avoiding a demerit with fights is to call police.
“There’s always that possibility there will be a fight at the bar because you’re dealing with alcohol,” he said. “We ask them to control what’s going on inside first. Stop that before it gets started. Don’t let that escalate.”
Kreuziger said police have been doing more ID checks at bars in town. He said if bars are having any issues, it might be a good idea to get a bouncer or a scanning device to check IDs.
Kreuziger said while other bars did not receive points for fights in the recent incidents, at least one has received points for underage drinking in the past.
“If the bars are willing to work with us and cooperate with us, we help them and they help us and we work back and forth,” Kreuziger said.
Brent Eisberner, the attorney for Amanda Hammen, said Monday their legal action against the city over the demerit point system will continue. He said a federal case will be filed shortly as cases in Dodge County Circuit Court move forward.