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Archive for Wednesday, September 8, 1999

BLESSING

September 8, 1999

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The Brown Bear Brewing Co. owners plan to be back in business by the end of this week, and they won't have to sell a lot of peanuts to do it.

After presenting a new business plan and promising to come into compliance with the city's food-sales requirements, owners of the Brown Bear convinced all five Lawrence city commissioners to clear the way to regain their state and city liquor licenses.

"I'm relieved, that's for sure," said Shawn Schlegel, one of the co-owners of the brewery at 729 Mass. "We're hoping to reopen by Thursday."

Last month, the city refused to renew the Brown Bear's license because it failed to meet a zoning requirement for downtown drinking establishments. That law says any drinking establishment opened since April 1994 in the downtown district must make at least 55 percent of its sales from food.

The food requirement goes up to 70 percent for establishments like the Brown Bear that have sidewalk dining.

Two weeks ago, commissioners turned down the Brown Bear's appeal for leniency after the owners presented a plan that most city officials found less than convincing.

In response, the owners announced their plans to form a new corporation and apply for a new license under a plan that stretched the definition of food sales. That involved serving peanuts with every beer and allocating 55 percent of the price to the peanuts. The same theory would have applied to mixed drinks like rum and Coke, or gin and tonic, since Coca Cola and tonic water technically can be considered food items.

City officials bristled at that suggestion, and Tuesday night a lawyer for the brewery withdrew the statement and apologized.

Daniel Covington, who spoke for the Brown Bear, acknowledged his clients had made "rookie mistakes" and had not shown "the appropriate respect for the city and some of the ordinances it has passed."

-- Peter Hancock's phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is phancock@ljworld.com.

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