MENOMONIE — The City Council heard testimony from multiple witnesses Monday night related to an incident at Rehab tavern on April 12 that resulted in multiple underage drinking citations. As a result the City Council voted against renewing the bar’s liquor license.
David Zempel, who owns Rehab, 631 Broadway St. S., as well as eight others testified before the City Council.
After April 12, 45 underage drinking infractions and other citations were issued at Rehab, sparking criticism from some community members about excessive drinking in downtown Menomonie.
Loren Corp., which is owned by Zempel, applied to renew its Class B beer and Class B liquor licenses, which would go into effect July 1. But at its May 21 meeting, the City Council unanimously favored notifying Rehab of its intention to not renew the liquor licenses. Zempel then requested a hearing on the matter.
Zempel said that he has been working in the bar industry for 13 years and he has never received a warning or a citation at any establishment he worked at.
To this day, he said, he is upset and taken aback by what happened on April 12.
“I feel like that I failed at my job,” he said “I think there is always more we can do.”
Since April, Zempel has said that a number of changes have been made to Rehab. He said at the hearing Rehab now has an ID scanner, a second person to check IDs at the bar and a consulting service to administer training to better monitor underage drinking.
A Menomonie police officer, paralegal, Rehab manager, a current Rehab bouncer, a former Rehab bouncer and three underage women who entered Rehab on April 12 also testified at the hearing.
Officer Tyler Hamann demonstrated to the council one way to check for a fake Wisconsin driver’s license and recalled the specifics of what happened April 12.
Three underage women who were present at Rehab April 12 told the council the variety of ways they could gain entry to Rehab by sneaking around the bouncer or using a fake driver’s license.
Brittany Andrews, Rehab’s manager, said following the events of April 12 she had to fire one employee.
“This was a rough one for all of us,” Andrews said. “We didn’t want this to happen.”
Councilwoman Mary Solberg asked Andrews how so many underage people were able to get into Rehab on April 12. Andrews said that fake identification has become very sophisticated.
UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer has been critical of the tavern in blog posts leading up to the hearing. Last week, Meyer addressed the council urging members to “make a strong statement” by denying Rehab’s liquor license.
He drew attention to Rehab’s 10th annual Intervention Fest held two weeks before graduation that invites people to start drinking at the tavern when it opens at 10 a.m. He also points out the tavern’s “all you can drink” and “Thirsty Thursday” specials.
The decision against renewal was unanimous and came in about 11 p.m.
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