As part of a settlement agreement, Twisted Roses bar in downtown Brainerd will be closed for 50 days.
During a special meeting Tuesday, the Brainerd City Council, by a 5-2 vote, agreed to the settlement offered by George Wetzel, the attorney representing Twisted Roses owner Christopher Searles.
The special meeting was set to consider sanctions against Searles for allegations of misconduct, including serving alcohol to intoxicated customers and assaulting a juvenile. Before Tuesday's meeting was called to order, Wetzel met with City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick and Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc to discuss the proposed settlement.
In addition to suspending the Twisted Roses liquor license for 50 days, Wetzel offered and the council accepted stipulations that Searles would be "out of the bar business" in Brainerd and that the liquor license would be transferred to another owner, if the council chooses to accept a transfer between Searles and Rooster Marcelli, at its May 17 meeting.
Searles faces criminal charges for the alleged assault of a juvenile.
"It's a significant consequence," said Fitzpatrick. "One of the things accomplished, it provides for a visible break of the operation and a new owner, who we're told, intends to do some remodeling and start fresh."
Searles has owned Twisted Roses since 2001. In 2003 he was disciplined by the city council for serving alcohol after closing time. In that incident he was ordered to keep Twisted Roses closed one day a week for five consecutive weeks.
Wetzel said if the council had decided to hold a hearing Tuesday instead of accepting the settlement, there would be no way to know what the ultimate outcome would be. Several witnesses, including Searles and several Brainerd police officers, were on hand to give testimony on the allegations against Searles.
"This settlement offers certainty," said Wetzel. "Certainty of punishment, retribution ... I think it meets the needs of the council, as far as sending a message to other bar owners."
Voting against accepting the settlement were council members Mary Koep and Bob Olson. Olson said that from Oct. 1, 2002, until March 31, Twisted Roses had generated 65 police calls; that the bar had violated several state statutes, including operating without insurance and buying liquor from another retail establishment; and the bar had violated a number of city codes. Olson said a penalty of suspension wasn't stiff enough.
"For us now, I'm going to say this is a slap on the wrist and I don't care what anybody else says," said Olson. "This is not teaching other people who own bars that the city council is serious when it comes to state statutes and city codes being violated."
Council member Kelly Bevans said the end result, whether the council suspended or revoked the liquor license for Twisted Roses, was that Searles was out of business.
"I'm going to vote in favor of (the settlement proposal) because it's time for Mr. Searles to move on," said Bevans. "To further disrupt any economics in that facility, I don't think it's fair to past or future owners of that business."
Wetzel noted that if the council decided not to accept the settlement agreement and the issue went through the hearing process Monday, his settlement offer would be off the table. He said he was prepared to ask for a continuance because of insufficient notice of the hearing and that he would ask some council members to recuse themselves from the hearing and voting because it was, in his opinion, clear they had already made up their minds on how they would vote. He also said he would appeal a negative decision from the council to the Court of Appeals.
Koep, who had earlier said Twisted Roses had been a problem for some time and needed to be addressed, wanted to have a hearing Monday so all the facts were known.
"Clearly everyone has their biases, but until we hear the evidence I don't think the decision we make will reflect al the evidence that is out there," said Koep. She later said Wetzel's comments made her feel like the council was being "browbeaten and threatened."
In a separate action after accepting the settlement, the council, by a 6-1 vote, suspended the Twisted Roses liquor license for 50 days. Olson voted against the suspension.
Olson had earlier attempted to amend the motion to accept the settlement to make it a motion to revoke the liquor license, which council president Jim Dehen declared out of order because it substantially changed the original motion. Fitzpatrick also noted the council couldn't make a motion to revoke the liquor license until the hearing had been held.
Olson also attempted to table the motion to accept the settlement, but that motion didn't receive a second. Olson then noted that he had a made a motion to revoke the liquor license at the May 3 council meeting, which at that time was tabled to Tuesday's meeting. However, the council voted 6-1, with Olson voting against, to keep the motion tabled until the motion to accept or reject the settlement offer had been voted upon. After the motion to accept the settlement was approved the council, as a housekeeping item, took Olson's motion to revoke the liquor license off the table and in turn voted against the motion by a 6-1 vote, with Olson as the lone vote of approval.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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