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Archive for Saturday, December 1, 2007

State won’t renew club’s license

December 1, 2007

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State officials refuse to renew Last Call's liquor license

It could be 'last call' for a downtown Lawrence nightclub with a history of violence. Enlarge video

Last Call, 729 N.H., will not have its liquor license renewed by the state, according to the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.

Last Call, 729 N.H., will not have its liquor license renewed by the state, according to the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.

Drugs, not guns, may be the ultimate undoing of the controversial downtown nightclub Last Call.

The state's top alcoholic beverage regulator on Friday refused to renew the state liquor license of Last Call, 729 N.H., after finding evidence of "consistent use of illegal substances" in the club.

"The Licensee and its agents/employees knew or should have known that illegal substances were being used on the licensed premises, but made minimal or no effort to prevent such usage," Tom Groneman, director of the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control division, wrote in the ruling.

The nonrenewal may not immediately close the club. Attempts to reach Dennis Steffes, the owner of the club, were not successful. But his attorney, Dan Owen, said Steffes would appeal the ruling. It is not uncommon for the ABC to allow a club to remain open while a license issue is appealed. Owen has said a full appeal process may take two years or more to work its way through the courts.

The ABC reviewed the Last Call's license at the request of Lawrence City Hall leaders. City attorneys earlier this month presented evidence to the ABC alleging drug use, multiple weapons violations, and signs of gang activity were happening inside or near the club.

The nightclub has been the subject of intense public scrutiny after police confiscated several illegal handguns - including assault rifles - from the city parking lot outside the club. Seven shots also were fired inside the club in May 2006, sending hundreds of patrons fleeing to the street.

But Groneman made a point in his ruling to stress that the ABC's ruling wasn't because guns were found outside the club. He said state law does not allow the ABC to hold a club responsible for actions that happen outside the club on property that the owner has no control over.

City Manager David Corliss said that was the only disappointing part of the ABC's ruling. He said the city has contended that clubs should be held responsible for activities outside their businesses, if the establishment is significantly causing or attracting the problems.

What the ABC did seize upon was evidence that marijuana usage was frequent in the club. Specifically mentioned in the ruling were allegations that marijuana was smoked in the presence of security personnel, and that a man who appeared to be a Last Call bartender was seen by an undercover police officer snorting white powder in the men's bathroom.

The ABC also found evidence that the club was obstructing justice by alerting patrons that police officers were entering the club.

But Groneman said the evidence did not support any allegations of gang violence occurring inside the club.

City commissioners said they were generally pleased with the ruling.

"It was the right decision, but it doesn't give us as much leverage as we would have liked," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx, though, said he thinks the city should be open to requesting similar hearings by the ABC on other clubs in the future.

"If problems arise, I most definitely will look at this as an option," Amyx said.

Comments

spywell 6 years, 4 months ago

Steffes, was getting screwed over by his own people. Supply creates it's own demand. Having all these people of a sub-culture group in one place is a mistake because their going too peddle their trade there and not by liquor. It's common knowledge, when your running a bar you got to keep the drug dealers out or your patrons will spend their money in the restroom with the drug dealers and not buy liquor. If the bartender or servers are part of the illegal system to market drugs and is being paid off for their alerting the dealers with their services or hooking clients, then Steffes, was getting the shaft and would be better off if he closed the bar down himself and reopened to meet the needs of a different culture group.

There's really no difference in what goes on at LAST CALL than any other bar in town. The people that work for you have to be loyal to the establishments interest. If you see or suspect drug traffic is going on in the bar you got to get rid of it quick and make sure it doesn't come back. The atmosphere of violence at Last Call is what got them investigated and the findings were in fact believable and assumed to be ongoing.

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smitty 6 years, 4 months ago

atk2, I don't buy some of the reasons given for no intervention by law enforcemnt inside of Last Call.

Our police chief, Olin, has an extensive in house training program with way more hours of training than Hutch. He expouses himself as a respected terrorist expert. No way can the lack of training be credited for a reason of non-enforcement of the laws inside Last Call. Olin's terrorist expertise should qualifies him to train the LPD in house. We have a failure with police department that has looked the other way and still is.

The quotes from the lpd amounts to lobbying for funds. The LPD can't do their job due to lack of funding? There are so many federal grants out there for law enforcement equiptment and programs. Let's take a look at the grant requests for body armour. Do the grants exist and is the lpd utilizing the resources avaialbe to them? It is not possible to believe the hard luck spin of Olin's department about body armour.

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Kontum1972 6 years, 4 months ago

Dave Corliss sez.....LoL....oh boy.....a real authority on dirty dealings....he cant even clean up his city hall or monitor that gang of crooks....in the city commission....get real!

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bearded_gnome 6 years, 4 months ago

technically, is smoking pot a violation of the city's smoking ban? doesn't that apply to tobaccie?


was smoked in the presence of security personnel, and that a man who appeared to be a Last Call bartender was seen by an undercover police officer snorting white powder in the men's bathroom.

hey, the bartender was just trying to treat a sinus problem! c'mon give 'em a break.


two years is way too long. I am delighted at the finding of the ABC, but for this kind of threat to safety and peaceful downtown congregation, this isn't good.

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hawkperchedatriverfront 6 years, 4 months ago

Pot you say? I smell pot around the Crossing, the Hawk , for that matter , I smell pot around city hall and the courthouse.

Time to hang the Christmas lights and overload the circuits. Party time!

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beobachter 6 years, 4 months ago

Dennis wouldn't get involved with Hooters, too normal. He only markets to worthless scumbags. That's where the money is.

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solsken66 6 years, 4 months ago

There is a gang task unit already established in Lawrence.

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cool 6 years, 4 months ago

time for ROBOCOP deployment !

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altarego 6 years, 4 months ago

"...the city has contended that clubs should be held responsible for activities outside their businesses..."

I hereby contend that the sky should be green.

I hope Dennis Steffes is involved in the Hooters franchise. Garawwnteed success.

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Crossfire 6 years, 4 months ago

Surely there is a space around 6th and Wauk. All you have to do is meet the zoning requirements out there. Maybe Steffes and Hack could go partners in some sporting bar. "The Last Dog Fight"

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funkdog1 6 years, 4 months ago

Woo Hoo!! Guns and cocaine!!!! Par-tay!!!

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Kathy Getto 6 years, 4 months ago

1 December 2007 at 9:06 a.m.

Suggest removal

Permalink jumpin_catfish (Anonymous) says:

If Steffes was a descent human being :: oh hell, what am I thinking!


What a cute and ironic typo suggesting this guy is descending into hell due to his character. The owner's character and/or behavior has nothing to do with the question, which is, can the state deny a license? Based on the evidence presented so far, I think not.

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akt2 6 years, 4 months ago

If anything serious happens, the medics are not going to move in until law enforcement secures the scene. I guess the risk for bleeding to death is pretty high.

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rtwngr 6 years, 4 months ago

Furthermore, how many bars in this city has had pot smoked in it? I would venture a guess that more than just Last Call. Sorry, if they're out to get you they (City of Lawrence) will.

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rtwngr 6 years, 4 months ago

Steffes is a businessman that is running a legal business. I don't like the element that patronizes his establishment. He does have the right to operate that business though. Shots were fired outside the Granada. Shots were fired outside of Half Moon. (Half Moon is now closed.) No, the city has an agenda against Steffes. Beware if the city get an agenda against you!

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its_getting_warmer 6 years, 4 months ago

Mick is totally right. The city could have and should have addressed it as a public nuisance. But Corliss as an attorney is clueless. And probably Toni Wheeler too. They lacked any spine to take Steffes on.

Remember the out-of-control dance/disco at 9th & Mississippi years ago. That one was closed as a public nuisance I believe. Last Call seems to me to be far worse.

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mick 6 years, 4 months ago

I don't know why the pols think they need the ABC to shut it down. They can close it for being a public nuisance. The real problem is with Steffes. He is a passive-aggrssive who vents his hatred on the public through a place like this.

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akt2 6 years, 4 months ago

Smitty, some training and equipment would be a start. Lawrence is not a big city. But they are going to have to get a big city attitude to deal with these people. Otherwise the thugs will take over. They might as well form a gang task force today.

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akt2 6 years, 4 months ago

The Party Bus runs clear out east of town to the Outhouse. That place is in the middle of a cornfield. They could move out to a cornfield somewhere. The bus is already painted red and blue for the gangster Crip and Blood colors.

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smitty 6 years, 4 months ago

akt2, how do you get law enforcemnt to go balls to the wall if they saw the offense and won't go into the club to arrest because of the danger element? I'll link the quote if need be but it was our own LPD that stated they do not have body armor that is effective against the weapons that are present in the area. There is a obvious comment about balls and Olin that I'm having a difficult time not expressing.

Two years for an appeal. The city better have more in the works than a little advise from the state level.

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simplykristib 6 years, 4 months ago

Wasn't Cogburns at that location? When I was going to KU in the '80s, you rarely heard about gunshots and bar fights in Lawrence.

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beobachter 6 years, 4 months ago

JoRight, disagree with you. If Last Call closes, the element it attracts won't come to town.

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akt2 6 years, 4 months ago

I say just make it standard practice to go after them "balls to the wall." On the premises, outside the premises, and surrounding the premises. With the state, city, and law enforcement tapping on their shoulders, it might make the place less appealing.

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pooks 6 years, 4 months ago

2 years---only if the courts agree to hear the appeal. Even then, I'm sure the city will try and push it through faster.

The problem now is that Last Call now has a free pass. As long as they are in appeals over their license, Steffes can operate anyway he wants with no fear of repercussion. It isn't like they can take his license away. I wouldn't be surprised for things to get a lot worse down there over the next few months. I hear Owen is raging mad over the decision.

I do like how Groneman didn't even consider the events that would eventually involve other clubs. For example, the things that happen outside the bar and MIP's. Now Steffes and his legal council can't draw comparisons between Last Call and other downtown bars.

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Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

Smoking reefer inside the building was in violation of the smoking ban soooo Mr.Steffes has some history with that violation as well.

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JoRight 6 years, 4 months ago

I'm with dolly on this one. . .it's not like these people will stop coming to Lawrence just b/c Last Call is closing. They'll make resident else where and be a headache to that owner.

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jumpin_catfish 6 years, 4 months ago

2 years that's insane. Just hope someone isn't hurt or worse while this appeal process goes forward. If Steffes was a descent human being ...... oh hell, what am I thinking!

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Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

If this activity was part of the nightlife prior to Borders coming to town would Borders have chosen that location? Is this affecting the leasing of the spaces in Hobbs-Taylor? Would Mr. Steffes locate a new retail business, that required nighttime hours, in this block knowing what he knows about his trouble making bar?

Mr. Steffes the business community including some other bars would prefer Last Call was not in operation. Open your electronics store idea as downtown Lawrence could probably use a well run computer store. You're a smart guy it likely would be successful.

To avoid any appearance of discrimination should the ABC monitor activity at some other bars that which have been named? Perhaps they are as we speak. Send them suggestions.

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Dollypawpaw 6 years, 4 months ago

Where will Hobbs Taylor residents party?

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Nikki May 6 years, 4 months ago

The article says "handguns - including assault rifles". I didn't know that assault rifles were hand guns.

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Drew Alan 6 years, 4 months ago

well apparently they will end up at Last Call for at least another two years... because that's how long the appeals process could take and we all know how much Mr. Steffes LOVES to sue and appeal... which just means that during the whole process he will have time to acquire a different location and make a new club. for guesses on where people might turn to for a coke snorting, pot smoking, justice obstructing good time? -Club Axis (because it already attracts a similar crowd, and this actually wouldn't be that bad because its not downtown and therefore if any violence breaks out it would be a more isolated incident, plus Steffes contention that the problems aren't his fault and its all other bar owners fault can't hold up when your club is the only thing that isn't a hotel or gas station for a square mile.) -Abe and Jakes (because it is SO big you can pretty much do whatever you want in there...)

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Downtoearth 6 years, 4 months ago

THEY ARE LIKE PEST, WERE WILL THEY END UP NEXT? HAVE ANY SPECTULATIONS?

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