Quotes first business to fall under nuisance ordinance

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Marcia Nelesen
Tuesday, October 15, 2013

JANESVILLE--Quotes Bar & Grill is again in hot water with police, who have taken the unprecedented step of using the city's chronic nuisance ordinance to apply pressure.

Police Chief David Moore recently wrote a letter to owner Denise Carpenter, telling her the establishment now falls under the chronic nuisance ordinance.

That means Carpenter could be charged hundreds or even thousands of dollars for future police calls.

The city council adopted the ordinance in 2008 to control properties with chronic problems requiring police response. After four police calls in a year, the ordinance allows the police chief to compel a business owner to attend a meeting to develop a plan to correct nuisance issues.

If violations continue, the city can charge the owner for the cost of police responses.

Although the ordinance has been used against landlords, Quotes is the first business subjected to the ordinance's requirements.

Police are meeting with an attorney about how to proceed and are considering holding a license revocation hearing or imposing earlier closing times, Deputy Police Chief Dan Davis said.

On Dec. 7, Carpenter finished a four-month sanction, during which she agreed to close the bar early as an alternative to a revocation hearing.

Since normal hours resumed, it's been “more of the same,” Davis said, citing aggressive staff, fights, injured patrons and lack of control by the owner.

Carpenter declined to comment Tuesday when contacted by The Gazette.

In his letter to Carpenter earlier this month, Moore said his department since May had responded to four calls at Quotes, 24 N. Main St., that qualify under the ordinance as nuisance activity:

-- May 5: An battery reported by a patron, who said he was hit inside the bar. The call resulted in an arrest.

-- July 14: A domestic disturbance reported after a woman slapped her ex-husband in the face. She was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct.

-- Sept. 8: A fight reported behind the bar that had started inside. Officers found no fight but saw wet blood on the ground. Staff said a patron hit another patron over the head with a bottle, after which they were both “thrown out.”

-- Sept. 29: An arrest for disorderly conduct after officers already in the area saw a Quotes bouncer remove a female patron from the bar with too much force.

In addition to the four calls, officers warned Carpenter the morning of Sept. 29 when they saw patrons inside the bar after closing time.

On Oct. 6, a patron was “severely injured” when she was struck in the face by a thrown glass.

Police calls do not count against the ordinance if they are called in by bar employees, Davis said.

Even then, "it does not relieve you from our expectation that you run an orderly establishment,” Moore warned.

“As the owner of the property, the law places the burden on you to ensure that the nuisance activity ceases," Moore wrote.

“This unlawful activity disrupts and threatens the peace, order and safety of persons who frequent downtown establishments and/or live in the downtown area," Moore wrote.

Carpenter has a deadline to meet with Davis and submit a detailed plan to end nuisance activity at the tavern, according to the letter.

Carpenter could be cited and fined up to $1,000 if police are called to her place for another nuisance activity.

The fine would increase up to $5,000 for subsequent violations.

Carpenter also could be charged the cost of the police service, including labor, materials and administrative time.

Every officer on duty in the city and two administrators were called to the bar the morning of Sept. 28, Davis noted.

“Generally, you could get to $1,000 fairly quickly,” Davis said.

Whether Carpenter is charged for the costs will depend if she's made “reasonable efforts to put a lid on the nuisance activity,” Davis said.

“She knows all the right things to say, but she doesn't do them,” Davis said.

“From the police department's standpoint, we have a repetitive cycle of problems,” Davis said.

When police intervene, the situation gets better but then deteriorates again, he said.

“We believe that there just needs to be a very clear message,” Davis said.

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