Janesville City Council giving Back Bar chance at redemption

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012
— A co-owner of The Back Bar promised to work with police and possibly limit hip-hop bands because he said the crowds they draw just aren't worth the problems.

Council members on Monday unanimously voted to give Bob Kerman a second chance after police and the city's alcohol license advisory committee recommended the city shut down live music there for four months.

That could have seriously hurt Kerman's business at 1901 Beloit Ave., which is known as a live music venue.

"Communication will be awesome," Kerman pledged after the meeting. "I am glad we all agree we are going forward, and I will do what I have to do."

Kerman also apologized to the police department.

The alcohol license advisory committee agreed with police and recommended to the council April 3 that live music at the bar be shut down.

Officials were concerned about what they classified as two serious incidents within weeks of each other: impaired patrons in the bar after hours, which resulted in unproven charges of sexual assault; and a gun observed inside the bar with at least one shot reported fired afterward on a nearby street.

Police officials said they contacted Kerman about the incidents, but he refused to work with them. At least one ALAC member also reported a defiant attitude from Kerman at the meeting.

On Monday, bar patrons, customers and even Kerman's insurance agent filled council chambers in support of owners he and his wife, Diane Kerman, who is co-owner of the bar.

Kerman said the summons to appear before the alcohol license advisory committee came out of the blue after no serious incidents occurring for at least five years. He noted previously that other bars have had more police calls and have had more chances to remain open.

Police Chief Dave Moore acknowledged the bar's troubles did come up quickly, but police usually deal with fights at other bars, not firearms, he said.

In addition, the cooperation police get from other establishments is far greater, with most owners willing to work with police to resolve problems before they get to the ALAC and the council, Moore said.

The police department has, in the past, pursued suspensions and revocations of bar licenses. That did not seem appropriate in this case because the problems seemed to stem from the live music, Moore said.

Police are willing to work with the Kermans if they have changed their positions, Moore said.

Kerman acknowledged he made bad decisions on one of the nights in question. He also said he is installing 16 cameras to keep watch on the parking lot and is tightening policies and procedures.

While the income is good with hip-hop bands, Kerman said the problems the crowds cause are "really not worth it. I have every intention of winding down almost all of the hip-hop," specifically noting the better-known bands, he told the council.

There is never a "hint of problem" with reggae, rock, metal, heavy metal or comedians, he said.

Councilman Tom McDonald made the motion to allow Kerman to continue the bar's live music since it appears communication between the owners and the police is now open.

"Everybody likes to work through these things," McDonald said.

The council gave Kerman and the police a month to work out solutions, with Kerman expected to reappear before the ALAC in May.

Council President Russ Steeber told Kerman the police department is an asset to his business and can be helpful in situations.

"I don't think anyone on the council wants to get to the point where we have to restrict a liquor license or your business," Steeber said. "You have to realize you have a business at the leisure of the city, and if things don't improve at your establishment you could lose your liquor license, which is, in essence, your livelihood.

"As the holder of that license, one of your responsibilities is to be responsible to the city."

Other business

The Janesville City Council on Monday:

-- Added $103,500 to an existing forgivable loan to Miniature Precision Components, Walworth, for a total package of $328,500.

The company said it will create 90 jobs within three years in 325,000 square feet leased from Helgesen Development Corp. on the south side of Janesville. The company plans to begin production May 1. Its capital investment is estimated at $2 million. The company manufactures thermoplastic components, and many of its customers are in the auto industry.

-- Approved a sewer extension through Riverside Park. The city has an agreement with two landowners west of the park who will hook up to city sewer. The pipe also will provide sewer access for city-owned facilities and for future private homes and businesses.

-- Approved a bus route to Milton and Whitewater. No local tax money is being spent. The fare will be $4 one way from Janesville to Whitewater.

Last updated: 8:11 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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