Gun show shutdown might lead to lawsuit
EVANSVILLE An Evansville bar owner said he plans to file a lawsuit against the Rock County Sheriff's Office after authorities early Sunday morning shut down the last day of an annual three-day gun show.
Sheriff's Capt. Jude Maurer said Gene O's Wild Ride Saloon, 7530 N. County M, violated state statues regarding its Class B liquor license when it held a gun show Friday and Saturday in an attached hall. The last day of the gun show was canceled.
Gene Heiman, owner of the bar also known as the old Red Barn, said this year was the 40th annual gun show held at his business, and he's never had a problem or complaint until now. Show attendance hit 6,000 Friday night and 10,000 on Saturday, he said. Sunday was expected to be another big day.
The issue started when an anonymous caller told 911 dispatchers shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday the bar was holding a gun show and might be overcapacity, Maurer said. A deputy responded to the business, walking through and talking to organizers, he said.
Heiman said the deputy looked at everything and told him there were no problems and wished him a good night. Heiman says he next took a phone call from a sergeant at 12:01 a.m. Sunday saying the gun show could not continue Sunday because the bar had a Class B liquor license.
"Our concern was that we were allowing state statutes to be violated in terms of firearms being inside the establishment, as well as minors coming in to the gun show who were not accompanied by a parent or guardian," Maurer said.
Individuals must be 21 or older to enter a business with a Class B liquor license or be accompanied by a parent or guardian, he said.
Statutes say no other business can operate on the premises operating with a Class B license, he said.
"Because he (Heiman) still had his alcohol out, we came to the conclusion he was still operating under Class B while doing other business," he said.
Heiman said his liquor license covers his entire facility and the events he holds, including auctions, horse pulls, truck pulls, weddings and music. He said the local firefighters held the annual gun show for 34 years until he took it over six years ago.
The company putting on the show, Marv Krauss Promotions out of Strawberry Point, Iowa, has been doing the Evansville show for years, as well as shows at other facilities that serve alcohol, Heiman said.
Maurer said previous gun shows at the Red Barn have never been brought to his attention in his 18 years at the sheriff's office. He said his office was not aware of this show until the anonymous tip was called in.
"It occurred in a tavern," Maurer said. "Our interpretation of applicable statutes is he was not able to host that type of venue while still having a Class B liquor license ongoing."
Heiman said alcohol was served at the gun show, but IDs were checked, and anyone bringing a gun had to go through five checkpoints before being allowed into the building.
Heiman said he plans to file a lawsuit against the sheriff's office for the lost revenue. He estimates the show promoter lost more than $5,000 in ticket entry sales Sunday and had to refund the $67 table charge for the more than 200 tables.
Heiman said he lost $1,500 to $2,000 in food and drink sales. He sold nearly 200 pounds of pulled pork Saturday, when he made $4,500 in food and drink sales, he said.
He said other business owners in the area have been nice and benefit from the thousands of visitors, who fill the city's hotel and buy groceries.
Show promoter Marv Krauss said Monday morning he did not want to comment on the situation because he was taking legal action against the bar.