Lawrence police have plans to forward a report to state officials alleging that a Lawrence bar — already under review by the city for three firearm-related incidents — violated alcohol-sales laws.
But a manager of Taste Lounge, Bar and Grill on Monday disputed the weekend incident and said he believed the bar and its staff members were being treated unfairly.
“We’ve never had an alcohol violation whatsoever,” said manager Rich Blackmon, who defended the bar’s three years of operation. “We’ve never received one.”
Sgt. Trent McKinley said police were called to Taste, 804 W. 24th St., about 2:30 a.m. Sunday because it appeared the bar was open past its state-mandated 2 a.m. closing.
Employees, who initially were not cooperative with officers, maintained the club was open but no alcohol was being served.
But McKinley said police determined the bar had served alcohol after 2 a.m. That information is being sent to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control agency, which has authority over liquor licenses. McKinley also said police were reporting to the ABC that Taste management had failed to properly display its liquor license.
But Blackmon said Taste serves chicken wings to customers after 2 a.m., and he said Monday police only saw an off-duty officer the club had hired for security behind the bar moving a bottle.
“He put the bottle down. He went out there and cooperated with them,” Blackmon said.
The manager spoke out Monday saying he believed the club was being unfairly targeted so that it would close. But he defended the bar and its security procedures.
“All we can do is just do our best to make sure everyone is safe,” he said. “We follow all the rules.”
City Attorney Toni Wheeler has said city staff members are collecting and analyzing information regarding activities at the club because the city might request a hearing before the ABC to consider revoking or suspending the bar’s license.
“We are aware of a high number of incidents at this location, and we have discussed this matter with city attorneys,” Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said Monday.
Douglas County prosecutors have said a bouncer at the club was shot in the abdomen early March 17 after trying to stop a man who tried to steal a tip jar. Dante Marcus Fields, 20, of Topeka, faces an Aug. 1 trial in that incident.
In addition, two Leavenworth men were arrested following a shooting on Oct. 9 at the bar — just three days after the bar’s current liquor license went into effect. No one was injured. And on Dec. 9, a Lawrence man was arrested for firing a weapon from a vehicle near the establishment.
But Blackmon said Monday the three events since October were isolated, and he said in all three cases suspects were arrested a short time later. He said after the March shooting, staff members followed the vehicle Fields was in and gave descriptions and a license plate number to dispatchers. Police in west Lawrence eventually stopped the vehicle Fields was a passenger in.
“If we’re not cooperating, no one would have gotten charged with anything,” Blackmon said.
He also said the incidents over the past few months had overshadowed Taste’s three years of operation.
“We’re judged off of three nights compared to almost 1,000 days,” Blackmon said. “That’s just not fair.”