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St. Charles Bar Hit with 3-Day Suspension, $1,000 Penalty

The St. Charles Liquor Commission fines The House Pub $500 plus $500 in costs, as well as a three-day suspension for liquor license violations, profanity-laced confrontation with police.

The House Pub will have to suspend liquor service for three days later this month and pony up $1,000 in fines and costs for three liquor code citations in which the bar allowed an intoxicated man to enter and then served him a drink, leading to a profanity-laced confrontation between one of the owners and police.

Mayor Donald P. DeWitte, the city’s liquor commissioner, told Thomas P. Wojcik and Stephen Erd, whom police identified in their report on the March 15 incident as the pub’s co-owners, that he considered the “belligerent” and “aggressive” actions by Wojcik as a particularly serious violation.

The $500 fine and $500 in costs were for allowing an intoxicated individual to enter the establishment and a second violation for serving an alcoholic beverage to an already intoxicated individual.

The third citation for interfering with a peace officer netted the suspension, which runs from 7 a.m. Monday, April 22 to 2 a.m. Thursday, April 25.

Wojcik and Erd declined to comment after the hearing, even though moments before Wojcik had criticized the media for not calling them for comment on the citations.

But during the hearing, Wojcik complained to DeWitte that he did not believe the citations were fair, saying The House Pub has been at the forefront of efforts by downtown bar owners to address St. Charles City Council concerns about brawls and public drunkenness in the city’s entertainment district.

“We’ve tried to keep a clean record … we’ve been trying to be the best bar in town with no issues whatsoever,” Wojcik said.

Chief Jim Lamkin, however, pointed out the bar does not have a clean record, starting with a written warning in November 2009, as well as citations and fines on several other occasions from December 2009 through early 2012 that warranted fines and one prior three-day suspension.

DeWitte noted that The House Pub has had a fairly clean record for the past year, and he expressed surprise at how the March 15 situation deteriorated after police followed an intoxicated person into the bar.

Wojcik complained that the officers had watched the intoxicated man stumbling down the sidewalk toward the bar while at a stoplight, and he claimed the timing of the situation showed that police had an opportunity to stop the man for public drunkenness before he entered the pub.

“Why, if he was that intoxicated, wasn’t he stopped first,” before he even entered the bar? Erd asked.

“I don’t think the police officers were setting you up … trying to catch you,” DeWitte told the two men.

The argument between police and Wojcik began after an officer spoke to the bartender, who had served a drink to the intoxicated man after he came in and sat down. Wojcik and Erd both said the individual is well-recognized in the downtown area, and that he came in because he thought he had a tab he needed to settle at the bar.

It was after that discussion with the bartender that the situated degraded into what DeWitte agreed was a belligerent, aggressive confrontation between Wojcik and a police sergeant, which included a series of profanity-laced statements by Wojcik and “aggressive” demands that police leave.

“Frankly, that concerns me more than the other half of this thing,” DeWitte told the two men.

Attorney Tom Good, representing the city, said that was the basis for the interfering with a peace officer complaint. State law gives police the authority to enter any bar at any time to check on liquor code compliance issues.

Wojcik was conciliatory about the confrontation. “I take no pride in two grown men yelling at each other,” he told DeWitte.

Still, Wojcik expressed frustration, saying The House Pub has been one of the leaders in trying to address the City Council’s tough stance on liquor code violations.

Further, he said he never denied the officers access to the bar at any time and that he actually appreciates the officers coming into the bar from time to time. In most instances, he said, he or someone on the staff escorts officers around the premises when the arrive.

“In this case, that did not happen — the officer ran by us,” he said.

Wojcik’s remarks drew a reaction from Lamkin. “Whatever they’re saying, there is no excuse for them to” use the language they did with the officers. “We can split hairs all we want … but the bar owners does not have the right to tell the officers to leave.”

Ultimately, DeWitte gave Wojcik and Erd two options: Agree to the three-day suspension and negotiate the fine and costs, or risk a full-blown hearing in the coming weeks in which a willingness to lighten the fine might no longer be considered.

The city originally had proposed a $1,500 fine and $500 in costs for The House Pub.

They agreed to the suspension, and the fine was dropped to $500.

Related:

  • March 26, 2013: ‘Patronize This’: City Hits St. Charles Bar With 3 Citations
  • March 19, 2013: St. Charles Bar Faces Citation for Serving Intoxicated Individual

 

Editor's note: Stephen Erd's last name originally was misspelled in this story but has been corrected.

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