Despite protests from Lawrence city officials, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control division has approved a new liquor license for Los Amigos Saloon.
City officials asked the ABC to reject the club's Class B license application at a hearing Oct. 16, citing persistent crime problems with Los Amigos patrons and employees.
At the hearing, Mayor Bob Walters gave ABC Director Robert Engler police reports of theft, vandalism and violent crimes committed either in or near the tavern, 508 Locust.
Engler said today that the decision boiled down in part to not having the authority to deny the license based on the incidents.
"THE STATE of Kansas does not currently have a . . .law holding licensees responsible for criminal behavior occurring in the vicinity of the licensed premises," he wrote in his decision.
He also said that the number of disturbances inside Los Amigos were within boundaries accepted for other Kansas clubs.
"Although the Los Amigos Saloon conduct has not been exemplary, it must be measured in light of other Kansas clubs and drinking establishments," he wrote.
Mayor Bob Walters said today that he was not surprised by the decision. "I don't have any problem with the decision," he said. "We had a fair hearing. We had our day in court."
The benefit of the hearing, Walters said, is that it put the owners of Los Amigos on notice that they would have to do something to solve the problems surrounding their club.
Jesse Del Campo Jr., owner of Los Amigos, said today he thought Engler's decision was fair because he couldn't control the actions of his patrons after they left the club.
THE PROBLEMS linked with the club were created either by people turned away at the door or patrons who would mill around the area at closing time, he said.
He said he has since taken steps to avoid late-night crowding and address complaints from neighbors.
"As soon as I got that letter from the ABC on the hearing, I started chasing people away," he said. "We've taken everything under control."
He said he hopes to cooperate with the city and police to avoid any more problems with the club.
The city could protest Los Amigos' next application for a Class B club license in September, said Dave Corliss, city management analyst.
Walters said that if problems persist with the club, he would rather resort to a proposed city ordinance regulating clubs and drinking establishments to which the Lawrence City Commission gave preliminary approval Tuesday.
The ordinance would give the commission the power to revoke, suspend or place conditions on the license of a bar or club if the commission finds that the business habitually threatens public safety or welfare.
"Assuming we are going to pass the local ordinance, I will let that be our primary option," Walters said.