Archive for Saturday, December 1, 2007

State won’t renew club’s license

December 1, 2007


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.


Nikki May 9 years, 8 months ago

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

Downtoearth 9 years, 8 months ago


Drew Alan 9 years, 8 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...)

Richard Heckler 9 years, 8 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.

jumpin_catfish 9 years, 8 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!

JoRight 9 years, 8 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.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 8 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.

akt2 9 years, 8 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.

simplykristib 9 years, 8 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.

akt2 9 years, 8 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.

akt2 9 years, 8 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.

mick 9 years, 8 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.

rtwngr 9 years, 8 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!

rtwngr 9 years, 8 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.

akt2 9 years, 8 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.

Kathy Theis-Getto 9 years, 8 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.

funkdog1 9 years, 8 months ago

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

Crossfire 9 years, 8 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"

altarego 9 years, 8 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.

bearded_gnome 9 years, 8 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.

Kontum1972 9 years, 8 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 the city commission....get real!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.