Suspension, early closing recommended for Quotes

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

— A year ago, Angela Smillie held up Quotes as a good example of how bar owners can communicate with the Janesville Police Department to create trust.

Twelve months, one missing tooth and several deleted video files later, Smillie’s trust in Quotes has evaporated, she said Tuesday.

“I held other establishments to the bar Quotes had set. I don’t have that any more,” said Smillie, the chairwoman of the city’s alcohol license advisory committee.

In the near future, the owners of Quotes could decide to voluntarily follow a recommendation to not serve alcohol for a week and close early for six months.

Barring that, the Janesville Police Department likely will file a formal complaint against the bar. The complaint will set in motion a hearing to revoke Quotes’ liquor license and could bring an end to what was supposed to be a 60-day trial period for the bar to reduce the number of incidents requiring police response.

The alcohol license committee on Tuesday voted to recommend a 7-day license suspension for the popular late-night dance club at 22 N. Main St., Janesville. In addition, the committee recommended the bar close at 12:30 a.m. for 90 days followed by 1:30 a.m. for 90 days.

The committee voted unanimously on the suspension recommendation and 3-2 on the early closing time recommendation.

Bar owner Denise Carpenter and her daughter declined to talk to The Gazette on Tuesday about the proposed sanctions.

A motion for a 14-day suspension failed for lack of a second.

City ordinances require that a complaint be filed to initiate a special hearing in front of the city council, and typically the police chief files the complaint, City Clerk Jean Wulf said. In his complaint to the city council, the police chief can follow the committee’s recommended sanctions but he is not obligated to, she said.

The bar could comply voluntarily to avoid the special hearing, Wulf said. The bar has the right to appeal in court the results of the hearing, she said.

The sanctions are in response to what police say is a high number of calls to Quotes compared to similar businesses.

“Quotes has sustained those numbers despite the efforts on our part and on their part,” Deputy Chief Dan Davis said about the demand for police services at the bar. “It’s not better. It’s not fixed.”

The police department Tuesday recommended a 14-day suspension and 12:30 a.m. closure every day for a year. That recommendation would be a “death sentence” for the bar, said Frank Lettenberger, Carpenter’s attorney.

Carpenter has been aware of pending sanctions for a year, committee member and city Councilman Matt Kealy said.

“If I knew I were under sanctions already, maybe I would try to change my crowd,” Kealy said.

Quotes is drawing more than its fair share of police resources, Kealy said. His biggest concern was protecting tax dollars.

In June 2011, police recommended the bar be closed at 12:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays as a way to reduce the number of violent incidents.

Carpenter at the time suggested steps she could take to improve things at the bar. The committee suggested a 30-day trial period, and the number of incidents was reduced during that time. Police didn’t think the sample was large enough. The committee set an additional 60-day trial period.

Toward the end of that period, things soured between the police department and the bar.

On Sept. 28, police requested video files of a fight that broke out in the bar. Historically, Quotes management had shared video files whenever police asked, Davis said Tuesday to the committee. After the Sept. 28 fight, an officer was blocked when he tried to collect the files from Carpenter’s office.

When Carpenter came out of her office, she said some of the files were missing. She blamed a power surge, Davis said.

Carpenter’s attorney, Frank Lettenberger, said Carpenter was under no legal obligation to release the files.

Police obtained a search warrant and seized the computer. They sent it to the State Crime Lab to search for information about the fight. State investigators restored the files, which had been manually deleted, and two people have been arrested as a result, Davis said.

Between November and May, a patron’s leg was broken as a result of a fight with a staff member, a person was knocked out during a fight and one person lost a tooth.

According to police department data, Quotes is responsible for 30 percent of the police resources spent at 43 of the city’s licensed bars, Davis said. He included in that count the businesses that are primarily bars—not restaurants. He also counted bowling alleys. He only included police responses to violent incidents such as fights or sexual assaults. Calls for thefts, forgery or verbal arguments were not included, he said.

Quotes’ use of police resources jumps to 38 percent when Davis eliminated calls to two bars that voluntarily relinquished their licenses when facing sanctions for similar problems in 2010.

Lettenberger said Carpenter and the police department need to come back to the table and try again to work together.

“Quite honestly, I think both sides have gotten a little dug in,” Lettenberger said.

Last updated: 5:01 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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