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City warns of 'use it or lose it' liquor law
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MONROE - The City of Monroe is giving a local business a warning on maintaining its liquor license.

The License Committee met Tuesday to discuss the possibility of The Roadhouse, a bar and restaurant at 1001 30th St., violating the new "use it or lose it" ordinances on liquor licenses.

The Common Council passed an amendment to city ordinances May 5 requiring license holders to be closed for no more than 120 consecutive days and to serve beverages not less than 25 percent of the days in a year.

Carol Stamm, city clerk, said the city had been informed that the business "appears to have been closed" possibly since May.

Robert Duxstad, the attorney representing the business, said the owners are aware of the new city ordinances, and are actively trying to sell the business.

"They are still technically open for parties," he said.

The Roadhouse is the last business to "purchase" a liquor license, under the old tradition of paying a license holder for the privilege of acquiring the license, and are invested heavily in the license, Duxstad said.

Under the new ordinance, the city invokes its right to re-possess the license for reissuance following the closing of a business. The "use it or lose it" clause prevents a license holder from continually renewing an unused license.

Rex Ewald, city attorney, said the burden of proof of violations to the ordinance will be on the city, if or when it decides to take action.

Committee members agreed to delay any action to notify the business, relying on Duxstad to inform the owners of the situation, and to reassess the situation in April. The license is up for renewal July 1.

Duxstad said it is doubtful that the owners of the Roadhouse would seek renewal at the end of the license year.

Stamm said the city has one, or possibly two, other applicants waiting for a license.

The Monroe Common Council on May 5, 2009, passed an alcohol ordinance amendment that created six new Class A licenses to sell hard liquor by the package and gave the city, under state limits, one more regular Class B license and a Reserve Class B license for selling alcohol by the drink. The change allows the city a total of 24 Class B licenses, plus one reserve license, available to local bars and restaurants.

On Sept. 1, 2009, council members granted the two newly-created Class B licenses to Barrett's Brick Cafe in downtown Monroe and to Fiesta Cancun Authentic Mexican Restaurant on the west side.

Three other businesses, Vince's Restaurant & Pizzeria, Kookaburra's Northside Grill and Pancho & Lefty's, had also applied for the licenses. Vince's had received enough votes to place third in the granting process. The Northside Grill had lost by one vote in a second round of voting by council members.

Barrett's Brick Cafe closed in March. That liquor license became available June 30 and was granted to Vince's Restaurant on Aug. 17.

The Northside Grill obtained a Class B license through private negotiations with Pizza Hut in Monroe. Pizza Hut's license went to Northside Grill on May 18, and Pizza Hut was granted a restaurant beer license and a wine license.

The Northside Grill has not yet opened.

Joey and Laura Winters of ABC Ventures, LLC, owners of Kookaburras and Northside Grill at 1609 10th St., elected to defer issuance of their license for six months, as allowed under the new city ordinance, according to Carol Stamm, city clerk. The Winters planned to remodel an unused potion of their building for the restaurant and lounge as an expansion of their Kookaburra's business.

The Winters picked up and paid for their license Nov. 15.

Kookaburra's has closed, but according to city ordinances, the Northside Grill, with a Class B license, can be closed for a maximum of 120 consecutive days or not less than 25 percent of the days in any license year.

Pancho & Lefty's maintains a wine and beer license.