MENOMONIE — Rehab bar’s liquor license could be transferred to the license-holder of The Pickle and The Pioneer taverns in Eau Claire following a special City Council hearing tentatively set for next week.
David Zempel, owner of Rehab, 631 Broadway St. S., said in a letter to the city that he would surrender his license if the city granted it to Beth Hart of Synergy on Water LLC. Hart is the agent for three licenses in Eau Claire: Pioneer Tavern, Pioneer Volleyball and The Pickle.
Zempel said in a text message he is not involved with Hart’s corporations or businesses.
When contacted, Hart declined to comment.
Loren Corp., which is owned by Zempel, applied to renew its Class B beer and liquor licenses, which would go into effect July 1. But the City Council decided to not renew Loren Corp.’s liquor license last week after concerns about drinking infractions at the bar. After April 12, 45 underage drinking and other citations were issued at Rehab, sparking criticism from some community members about excessive drinking in downtown Menomonie.
According to Dunn County property records, 631 Broadway St. S. is owned by Jared Hart, former owner of The Pickle. He has been the owner since 2011.
In 2014, Jared Hart was sentenced to prison for 18 months and fined $100,000 for tax evasion.
License transfers like this are not uncommon, Menomonie city clerk Cally Lauersdorf said. The council can agree to Zempel’s suggestion or do nothing.
“In the end it’s up to the City Council,” she said.
Mayor Randy Knaack said he is unsure how the council will vote on a possible transfer. Excessive drinking and underage drinking in Menomonie have been hot topics in recent months, and Knaack said city officials may hold back the license due to the concentration of alcohol establishments downtown.
The letter from Zempel was presented near the end of Monday’s council meeting, and it caught Councilwoman Robin Sweeny by surprise. She said since then she has been hearing feedback on the topic and is expecting it to continue next week.
“This is a big deal, and we are taking it seriously,” she said.
Councilman Nathan Merrill said the council will be taking everything into consideration.
“We want to enforce an appropriate drinking age,” he said.
UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer has been outspoken on binge drinking in Menomonie and said in a statement he is concerned about the proposed transfer.
“We fear this transfer could perpetuate the current high-risk drinking culture that exists at the Rehab,” he said. “We believe a better option would be denying this transfer to allow the council to carefully consider all applicants’ business plans — including responsible beverage services — that may be a better fit for the new direction we hope to see in downtown Menomonie.”
The Police Department will review Beth Hart’s background before the meeting and present a recommendation.
A tentative date and time for the special hearing is set for 1 p.m. Friday, June 29.
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