Countryside Inn owner files suit against Milton Town Board over liquor license

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Frank Schultz
Friday, March 21, 2014

TOWN OF MILTON—The owner of the Countryside Inn is suing the town of Milton to get his liquor license back and for loss of revenue.

The town board Feb. 20 suspended the tavern's liquor license for 60 days, citing two apparent shootings and reported violence during dance parties.

The board ruled after a three-hour hearing Feb. 20 that the tavern has been run as a “disorderly or riotous, indecent or improper house.”

Richard Erdman is managing partner of K.M.E. Properties, which does business as Countryside Bar, according to the civil suit.

The lawsuit seeks reinstatement of the liquor license and compensation for lost income.

Also filed was a request for the court to issue an injunction to immediately reinstate the liquor license, pending a hearing on the lawsuit.

An injunction would not harm the town of Milton, the document argues, because Erdman had agreed to stop hosting dance parties.

Court documents indicate no response by the court as yet.

In an affidavit, Erdman claims average weekly sales of at least $2,500 that increase each March to as much as $10,000.

Since the loss of the liquor license, weekly sales have totaled $200 to $300, all employees have been laid off, and previously booked events have been canceled, the affidavit states.

Continued suspension of the liquor license will force him to close the bar and file for bankruptcy, Erdman stated in the document.

The board suspended the liquor license after testimony by Rock County sheriff's officers and a town of Milton police officer about disorderly activity, including fights and gunplay, associated with dance parties that Erdman and Madison event promoter Jerome “Romey” Hunt have hosted at the tavern at 1801 Highway 59.

The suit states that the tavern's ownership was denied due process of law because the town board relied on “the uncorroborated hearsay statement" of an unnamed individual who claimed he had been shot at “a bar near Milton,” an apparent reference to a Jan. 26 incident.

The law enforcement officers who testified to the town board said they did not reveal sources in order to protect them from threats and to protect their investigations and potential court testimony.

The suit also states that the board did not clearly prove that Erdman had “maintained a disorderly, riotous, indecent of improper house” and that the board relied on “a pair of incidents in eight months, one of which was made up entirely of uncorroborated hearsay.”

The two incidents referred to were likely the one Jan. 26 and the shooting of a Fitchburg man at a Countryside Inn dance party last June 22.

Prosecutors recently dismissed a first-degree murder charge against a Madison man in the earlier case, saying that witnesses either changed their stories or refused to show up for hearings.

The suspect was convicted of intimidating a witness.

The suit states that K.M.E. Properties bought the tavern in 2007 for $800,000 and has added $25,000 in property improvements.

The suit also states that the board failed to prove a shooting had taken place Jan. 26 and relied on evidence that was from similar incidents at “establishments outside the town of Milton.”

At the hearing, Capt. Jude Maurer of the sheriff's office cited shots apparently fired—with no injuries—in 2012 at GenO's Wild Ride Saloon in the Rock County town of Union.

The shots were fired in the parking lot of the tavern during a dance party also hosted by Hunt, Maurer said.

The only evidence made public about a shooting Jan. 26 was the word of a 28-year-old Madison man who turned up at a Madison hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound to his leg and who told investigators he was shot at a bar in the Milton area.

No arrest has been announced in that case. 

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