Approval of a liquor license is often a routine exercise that’s done without much discussion. But during Wednesday’s meeting at City Hall, aldermen spent nearly an hour talking about Shenanigan’s, a downtown bar they say has done too little to address concerns about public safety, and ultimately decided against renewing its license.
For the part of Shenanigan’s, Bettendorf attorney Mike Meloy says his client is being blamed for problems associated with late-night drinking that occur in an area with a high volume of bars. He also said the bar keeps security cameras and has employees who check patrons with metal detectors and pat-downs to prevent weapons from getting inside.
The action Wednesday does not prevent Shenanigan’s from staying open. Now, the license will get kicked up to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, the state rule-making body that oversees licensing of bars and other establishments that serve alcohol, where a suspension could be decided. There are also avenues of appeal that can be taken by the business owner or the city as that question moves forward.
Aldermen made the decision unanimously. Before casting their votes, they said Davenport police have been overburdened with calls to the bar, criticized the owner for not showing up personally for Wednesday’s hearing, and referenced a nearby shooting from March as a central point of concern.
Meanwhile, Meloy, said some council members were basing their conclusions on information that was “factually incorrect.”
“I would remind the council that you need to hear the full story on this matter – not bits and pieces you want to use in (an) attempt to take away the license of Shenanigan’s,” Meloy said.
The shooting in question involved a 22-year-old man who was arrested after police heard shots fired on the Harrison Street parking ramp near the bar and found him with a gun. Police later said the man was seen pointing the weapon at patrons inside Shenanigan’s before the shooting occurred.
The March shooting came up during a previous review of the bar’s license by state officials. In August, an administrative law judge ruled there was “no evidence in the record” to show that shooting happened because the bar owner or employees failed to supervise the premises. Concerning that incident, Meloy added that there is no physical evidence that proves a weapon was ever inside the bar.
City officials have attempted to get the liquor license pulled before, but the state’s alcohol control board has overruled them. In 2015, Shenanigan’s was forced to temporarily close after state officials weighed in, a decision that was later overturned.
As they spoke out about the bar, several aldermen referenced a pattern of complaints they've heard over the years. Alderwoman Rita Rawson, 5th Ward, asked whether the city would have to "keep paying this song and dance" where the safety concerns of city officials go unanswered.
“Is it going to take someone actually getting shot for something different to be done to tighten up security?” Rawson said. “I’m hoping that is not the case.”
Alderman Mike Matson, 7th Ward, agreed with that assessment. He also said past failures to get the license pulled should not prevent council members from trying again.
“This is our job,” Matson said. “If someone overrules us, that’s life. But we need to do something.”