August Weber license renewal comes amid new probe
Investigation, petition among council deliberations

By Alison Henderson - News Graphic Staff

June 15, 2017

CEDARBURG — The August Weber Haus was granted renewal of its liquor license for the coming year, but with the license comes news that its holder is part of a new police investigation.

The Washington Avenue restaurant, owned by Diane and Steven Banas, was among dozens applying for an annual Class B liquor license, which are overseen by the police chief. The Common Council reviewed these applications Monday, ahead of today’s deadline to approve or deny them.

Prior to the council’s approval, they received a petition with almost 900 signatures calling for the revocation of the August Weber Haus license, along with a memorandum from Cedarburg Police Chief Tom Frank recommending approval with the caveat that the department is undertaking a new investigation related to the license-holder and the petition, according to City Attorney Michael Herbrand.

Frank and Herbrand both recommended approval to allow the department enough time to complete the investigation.

“We haven’t had enough time to look into the facts,” Frank said, but confirmed that he could come back before the council with a different recommendation if the investigation determined it necessary.

In addition, license nonrenewal and revocation require due process, including a public hearing. Herbrand advised that if the council denied the application, there would not be adequate time for that process before the license deadline.

“You owe due process to the license-holder,” Herbrand said. “(Approval) is the way to go forward, versus acting before you know the results of the investigation.”

The specific nature of the investigation was not disclosed during the meeting, and

Frank could not be reached before the News Graphic deadline, however, he told council members the information came forward within the last two weeks and he expected to complete the investigation within the month.

The August Weber Haus has been under scrutiny – primarily from the group, Committee for a Safe Cedarburg, which filed the petition – because of its relation to allegations that the owners’ son and former employee Jacob Banas drugged and potentially sexually assaulted a number of women, sometimes while at the restaurant.

The restaurant has had to significantly reduce its hours of operation since the allegations were publicized in 2014, when law enforcement searched Jacob Banas’ home and the restaurant. Jacob Banas has not been charged to this date with anything related to the reports or the search, however there is an ongoing and active police investigation.

In December 2016, the council passed an ordinance requiring Class B liquor license holders to meet specified operating hours to ensure the licenses are being properly used. Committee for a Safe Cedarburg members have asserted that in addition to concerning allegations, the restaurant’s limited operation is not the best use of a city liquor license that is in high demand.

“The scope of this situation is horrifying,” Antonio Ramirez of the Committee for a Safe Cedarburg said to council members. “It’s horrifying enough that it demands action from citizens like ourselves and from elected officials.”

Ramirez said because of the allegations, many residents have boycotted the restaurant. He also described sporadic hours and inconsistent food offerings at the restaurant.

“Let’s give the license to a business that instead represents the best of Cedarburg and one that the … consumers of Cedarburg can have confidence in.”

At the beginning of 2017, Diane Banas and attorney Tim Algiers both contacted police over concerns of harassment, stalking and intentional interference with business. In a letter to police, Algiers said the group calling for license revocation was in a “state of constant surveillance,” including but not limited to taking photographs and video of the business and taking shifts to document its activity.

Speaking at Monday’s council meeting on behalf of Steven and Diane Banas, Algiers called this a “mob mentality” to punish the restaurant owners, but maintained that the owners had not done anything wrong.

“(Committee) for a Safe Cedarburg encouraged the council to change the ordinance. ... Since then my clients have been compliant with the letter of the law, but they have essentially been put out of business … ” Algiers said.

Before approving the August Weber Haus license, Council Member Pat Thome said she wanted the council’s decision to be based on accurate, factual information.

“If there’s cause, time will give us a stronger case,” Council Member Mike O’Keefe said.