Shenanigan's liquor license denial has been reversed by a state administrative judge.
An administrative judge with Iowa’s alcoholic beverage control division overturned the Davenport City Council's decision to deny a liquor license for the downtown bar, saying city officials failed to prove accusations the bar knowingly allowed criminal activity to occur or that the bar owner lacks good moral character, as required under state law.
“Shenanigan’s has no liquor law violations nor are there any criminal convictions stemming from any acts of the owner or employees as relates to the operation of Shenanigan’s in the course of the last year,” Judge Tricia Johnston wrote in an opinion issued this week. “It appears that the local authority has not even charged the licensee or the licensee’s employees with any violations related to the operation of the liquor license, either criminally or administratively.”
In October, the council unanimously denied the bar’s routine liquor license application, citing concerns about a March shooting allegedly begun as an argument inside the bar. Council members pointed to what they described as longstanding negligence and an unwillingness to work with the city to improve security. They also cited more than two dozen police calls to the bar that led police to describe Shenanigan's as a hot spot.
Referring to those calls, the judge said the “number of police calls alone is not a sufficient basis upon which to deny a liquor license renewal.”
City officials can appeal. Davenport’s chief attorney Tom Warner said Thursday the city would ask the state to review and reverse the ruling.
During a hearing last month, Davenport police officials, assistant city attorney Mallory Hoyt and Alderwoman Marion Meginnis argued the city’s position before the judge. Bettendorf attorney Mike Meloy represented the bar, saying his clients have worked in good faith to keep a safe establishment and city officials have unfairly blamed them for late-night problems even though there are several bars in the vicinity.
In March, a 22-year-old man with a gun was arrested after police heard shots fired at the Harrison Street parking ramp. Police later said he was seen pointing the weapon at patrons inside Shenanigan’s before the shooting occurred.
City officials have sparred with the downtown bar in the past.
In 2015, Shenanigan’s was forced to temporarily close after the city called for its license to be pulled in response to a nearby stabbing – an incident found to be unrelated to Shenanigan’s patrons. That decision was later overturned. Another review by state officials in August took into consideration the March shooting, but no license suspension was issued.