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Board votes for one less bar in Somerset

The corner of Main and Spring Street will have one less bar.

The building at 235 Main St. has seen many changes over the past few years. It had been MacDaddy's bar for a long-time before owner Fred Macalus decided to close it down. Since then it bore several name signs such as Country Nights, Club Metro, Bootlegger's and most recently, JohnnyRocks.

JohnnyRocks (operating under FF Mac LLC) opened its Facebook page on May 9 and said it was opening its doors that weekend.

However, there was an issue with the liquor license that raised some questions - and that brought the issue before the Village of Somerset Board at a special meeting on Thursday, June 23.

When Macalus leased the building to Chad and Tanya Schmitt to open Bootlegger's Bar back in February 2010, the liquor license was put in Schmitt's name since Macalus - a Minnesota resident - was not eligible.

Robert Leibman, attorney for the Macalus family and FF Mac LLC, explained to the board that the lease specified that the license was to be in Schmitt's name only for legality's sake.

"In February 2010, the lease specified the license stays with the building," said Leibman. "Fred Jr. would never have leased the building without it; the building had a license for 90 years. It's not right if that license is taken from Fred."

Ryan Kerry, attorney for Kindustries LLC and Chad Schmitt, said that there were several versions of the lease.

"I'd be happy to provide another one that doesn't speak to it (the license) at all," said Kerry. "What they are going to show you is chicken scratches on the back of a piece of paper. The deal went bad and my clients were told to vacate the premises - the deal was off."

The application Kindustries submitted to the board initially asked for a renewal of the "Class B" liquor license for 235 Main St.

However, that was amended to a new location: 520 Main St., the site of the Apple River Liquor store.

Apple River Liquor has been covered under Float-Rite Park's liquor license since it opened in early summer 2008. The board's decision to allow John Montpetit, owner of Float-Rite campgrounds and General Sam's Bar, to extend his FRP liquor license to cover 520 Main St. was met with opposition.

Mary Wallace, owner of Liquor Depot, tried to get a temporary injunction against the opening, saying that it was not fair for one license to cover two physically separated sites even if they are under one management.

The judge upheld the board's decision to allow the license extension.

Jeff Johnson, village president, agreed with Liebman's statement that the 235 Main St. property would be basically worthless without the liquor license.

"For him (Schmitt) to basically pick up that bar and say I'm going somewhere else with it ... it still feels like the property of 235 Main St. The key to the license is this: is it to the premise, or the signature?"

After consulting the Municipal Licensing and Resolution of Alcoholic Beverages book published by the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, it was determined that the license does stay with the person and not the property.

However, the decision to renew that license still sat with the village board.

Leibman presented various reasons why the board should deny Kindustries the renewal, such as they were not in control of the property and had unpaid bills owed to the village. Kerry said that he could provide documents by June 30 to show that his client does have control and a check in his hand to pay all outstanding bills owed to the village that night.

Bob Krueger and Dave Carufel, board members, voiced their opposition to the renewal.

"Common sense dictates that no licenses would be given up," insisted Krueger. "Why should he (Schmitt) keep the license? We'd be rewarding him for not paying his bills and committing highway robbery to take the license with him."

"If we take their (Macalus') ability to make money away, you can guarantee you can bulldoze those buildings over," said Carufel. "This is not good for our community."

"I don't like the idea of a license having to leave the premises either, but if he gave up that license legally, there is nothing we can do about it," said Bartt Palmer, board member.

The board voted to renew Kindustries' liquor license in a 5-2 vote. Then they turned their attention to Kindustries' request to transfer the license to 520 Main St.

With the atmosphere of the room already tense, some tempers flared.

"We are taking away the ability to let a person make a living," lamented Carufel. "We can just bulldoze the building. We had the chance to do things right, instead of doing things John's (Montpetit) way."

"Are you talking about me?" called Montpetit from the back of the room. "You better grow up first."

Johnson stopped the exchange and called for a motion. The board approved allowing the transfer with a 5-2 vote.

Pam Donohoe, village clerk, told Montpetit that he would have to amend his FRP liquor license now since a facility can't be on two licenses. Discussion about any future licensing matters will be discussed at the next regular board meeting on Tuesday, July 19. The public is welcome to attend.