Quotes Bar owner could end up before city council
JANESVILLE The Wisconsin State Crime Lab is examining a computer seized from a downtown tavern to determine if surveillance video of a Sept. 28 fight at the tavern was intentionally erased.
After getting a search warrant for Quotes Bar & Grill, 24 N. Main St., Janesville police took the computer from the office of owner Denise Carpenter. A forensic specialist will try to determine if the video was deliberately erased or if the gap resulted from a power surge, as Carpenter suggested to police, Police Chief David Moore said.
Police also are investigating a report that a case of beer was sold out of the back door of Quotes at 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Moore said.
Beer cannot be sold for carryout from Janesville taverns after midnight.
The incidents led Moore to request that Carpenter be brought back to the city's alcohol license advisory committee Tuesday.
"This last week has been concerning," Moore said.
Carpenter appeared before the committee earlier this summer, when Moore recommended that Quotes be required to close by 12:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays to discourage what police called a disproportionate number of bar fights there.
Carpenter said then that she had more reports of fights because her bar staff called police, as police instructed them to do. She asked for more time to reduce the disturbances.
Her strategies appeared to be working, but police were dispatched to the tavern a few minutes after midnight Sept. 28 and reported seeing patrons fighting in and around the bar.
The fights resulted in injuries, Moore said.
"During our investigation, we learned that there was a lapse in the video system that occurred just before the fight," Moore said. "And then the video system was working again."
"We had concerns whether this was a mechanical malfunction or if the video … was intentionally erased."
Because police investigations of the incidents are not complete, the alcohol licensing committee delayed its decision for 30 days, ordering Carpenter to appear again in November.
Moore said he would make a recommendation to the committee after the investigations are done. His recommendation could include suspension or revocation of Carpenter's license. If the committee agrees, Moore would file charges with the council.
A hearing before the council would then be scheduled.
The Gazette was not able to reach Carpenter for comment Tuesday.
According to the search warrant:
Police were dispatched to Quotes at 12:03 a.m. Sept. 28 after the dispatch center received calls about numerous people fighting. None of the calls came from Quotes personnel.
Between May 2010 and June 2011, police had investigated 49 incidents of fighting and disorderly conduct in and around Quotes. After all of the incidents, Quotes gave police video from surveillance cameras.
When a police lieutenant who responded to the fights Sept. 28 tried to talk to Carpenter in the bar office, a woman identifying herself as the bar manager blocked his way. When the lieutenant tried to step around the woman, she moved to block his way and again told him he could not enter.
When the lieutenant called out to Carpenter, she told him he could enter. He found her in front of the computer monitor used for video surveillance. There were no images on the monitor.
Carpenter told the officer there must have been a power surge because she was not able to view the video.