July 22, 2010

Park 6, city will argue over liquor license July 29

Park 6 at one of its calmer moments.

Update 2: Given the responses were getting on all sides of this issue, the city's handling of Sixth Street is going to be a major issue in the coming weeks. Just about everyone is upset right now, some with diametrically opposed viewpoints.

Update: We're getting feedback that the incidents outside of Pepi's and at Henry and Wanda's are completely different than the issues involving Park 6 and The Place on 6th. First, the shooting outside of Pepi's   involved two people who had left the bar and were not causing problems. It's being described as an accidental shooting between two guys in a car parked on Sixth Street, which is certainly different from the security guard who was randomly shot in May.

The Henry & Wanda's "fight" only lasted a few seconds, and the bartender still called the police even though the participants were tossed out immediately after it happened.

The critical difference between the incidents is Henry & Wanda's, and the recently opened Pepi's, are not chronic sources of problems that require extensive police coverage every weekend. Park 6 and The Place on 6th do generate regular calls to the police, and they've been called before the city to explain those calls and problems.

Original post: The controversial Sixth Street bar Park 6 is headed to a hearing next week over the fate of its liquor license.

The city announced today they would hold a due process hearing beginning at 5 p.m. on July 29 to try and revoke the bar's ability to sell alcohol. Police calls and a shooting outside of the bar in May have the Common Council concerned about owner Thomas Holmes' ability to control the large crowds his bar attracts on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Supporters of the bar are accusing the city of holding businesses responsible for people's conduct on the street. An NAACP report released this month accused the city of targeting African-American owned businesses in Downtown Racine. 

But the city's Public Safety and Licensing Committee lost patience with the bar after a private security officer was shot in the foot on May 20. The shooting remains under investigation with no suspects at this time, Sgt. Martin Pavilonis relayed this week. But the city believes Park 6 was involved in the crime, and that's got the bar on the hot seat. 

The shooting, along with rowdy crowds near Sixth and Park streets most weekends, has hurt business for other Sixth Street bars including the Raytown Roadhouse, Henry & Wanda's and the new Pepi's Pup and Grill. But Pepi's may find itself answering questions before Ald. Aron Wisneski's Public Safety and Licensing Committee in the near future, because it had a shooting nearby this month. A 26-year-old Racine man is facing criminal charges after he accidentally shot his cousin July 17 outside of Pepi's. The victim is expected to survive. The suspect told police his handgun accidentally went off while picking up the victim outside of the bar. 

The incident has business owners and activists buzzing over how the city will respond. The incident is different than the May 20 shooting because no shots were fired randomly into a crowd.

Ald. Jeff Coe wound up in a bit of a fracas two weekends ago, as well. Coe jumped in and grabbed a guy who had exchanged punches with another guy. The fight was quickly broken up and both guys were thrown out of the bar. Initially, we'd reported witnesses said Coe was knocked down last weekend. The fight was actually two weekends ago and Coe says he was not knocked down. 

All of the incidents are background noise to next Thursday's hearing, which promises theatrics. Holmes has already said he's planning to fight the city for the license, and that may lead to some heated moments inside of the City Hall chambers. The Common Council sits as jury during the due process hearing and will decide if Holmes will continue to hold his license. If he loses it, no bar can move into the Park 6 building for a year after the hearing. 

As an aside, the city is accumulating unused liquor licenses these days. Three local bars - Salt & Pepper, 1111 Washington Ave., 2nd Time Around, 1922 16th St., and Tradewinds, 1518 Washington Ave., declined to renew this year. Also, Blind Alligator lost its license in a due process hearing. All told, the city has about six vacant liquor licenses, a huge number considering a year ago people were waiting outside of the City Clerk's office to try and get a license before Racine hit its quota.