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VIEWPOINT: Bullets flying in downtown Davenport 'just unacceptable'

VIEWPOINT: Bullets flying in downtown Davenport 'just unacceptable'

Mac's Tavern damaged by gunfire early Sunday morning.

A piece of cardboard is taped over a window at Mac's Tavern, where a bullet struck the building early Sunday morning in Davenport. The shooting occurred during a large fight outside troubled tavern Shenanigan's.

It's always been hard to argue with cheap beer.

In my day, we had to go all the way out to Balboa's at NorthPark Mall to drink ourselves stupid on dime drafts. Somebody tried to stay reasonably sober in those days, and we typically counted on that person to drive us home.

We didn't have to worry about getting shot or stabbed, but it would be dishonest to say we were safer. Or smarter.

But we know better today. Right?

Anyone in the neighborhood of Harrison and W. 3rd streets in Davenport early Sunday knows the answer. Many people, including Davenport police, aldermen, business owners, victims and previous downtown patrons, already knew.

Shenanigan's Pub & Dance Club, 303 W. 3rd St., has for years been on the city's short list of bars to shut down. Multiple incidents of gun and knife violence and a high number of police calls have had more than one rotation of Davenport aldermen calling for Shenanigan's liquor license.

But tavern owner Burton Davison and his attorney have beaten city hall. After Sunday, some will say, Mac's Tavern took a bullet for it.

Two cellphone videos from outside Shenanigan's around 1 a.m. Sunday show parts of the fights. In one video, several women who appear to be in their underwear are pulling each other's hair and being pepper-sprayed by police.

In the second, it appears several groups are fighting in the street when an unseen gun is fired. The bullet did as bullets do and shot through the air without concern for who or what was in its path. It tore through a window across the street, narrowly missing patrons of Mac's Tavern.

The shooting occurred less than six months after an administrator for the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division sided with an administrative law judge in the latest liquor-license dispute between Shenanigan's and the city.

In simple terms, the administrator said the city didn't prove its case. It didn't supply evidence that Shenanigan's owner and/or employees allowed or even knew about illegal activity there. And the city didn't prove that the owner failed to comply with state law or that he lacked moral character, which are state standards.

Given the recent legal findings, it would seem unfair to point the finger at Shenanigan's, right?

Recent and distant history make it impossible to absolve them completely. Sunday's shooting wasn't the tavern's first.

In March of last year, Cazmiere Graves, 23, got into an argument with a man at Shenanigan's, pointed a 9mm handgun at him and activated the weapon's laser sight, court records show.

The man ran out of the bar, and Graves chased after him along Harrison Street and shot at him multiple times. Police heard the shots, caught up to Graves and arrested him. He was sentenced in August to eight years in prison for possessing the firearm as a felon.

To hear Shenanigan's attorney tell it, there's no way a gun could get past the "pat downs" and metal detectors at the door. But guns and knives repeatedly have made their way into Shenanigan's.

Attorney Mike Meloy really poured it on in June after the state rejected Davenport's denial of the tavern's liquor license, saying: “The ruling fully rebuts all of the City’s arguments. Davenport must stop its arbitrary harassment of a lawful downtown business now.”

If this were a laughing matter, Meloy's remark would be hilarious. Just as the "pat down" policy suggests the bar should hire some better patters, the police-call log suggests its attorney doesn't know the meaning of "arbitrary."

From January 1 to December 1, police responded to Shenanigan's 90 times. In 46 of those cases, they were responding to disturbances and/or nuisance calls. You know how many times police were called to Mac's Tavern, just across the street, in the same period?

In nearly a year, the cops were called to Mac's seven times in total.

Downtown businessman Dan Bush said Sunday's shooting is "unacceptable" to others trying to operate safely in the area.

"For business owners downtown to directly file complaints with the state is the only way to get them shut down," he said Tuesday. "When bullets are flying across the street, that's a deal-breaker. It's just so unacceptable."

City officials have said before that the state evidently requires a murder before they are permitted to yank Shenanigan's license.

On Sunday, the requirement very nearly was met.

Contact Barb Ickes at 563-383-2316 or


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