Cedarburg revokes August Weber Haus liquor license

By LAURIE ARENDT - Conley News Service

Nov. 16, 2017

CEDARBURG — After more than two hours of testimony and an hour of closed session deliberation, the Cedarburg Common Council unanimously voted last night to revoke the Class B liquor license for the August Weber Haus.

Common Council President Mike O’Keefe cited two reasons for the decision in his motion.

“The first is for failure to publish open hours per the ordinance … the second is (for) failure to be open for business in a way that satisfies an active business concern on a regular basis,” he said at the hearing Tuesday night.

The motion was seconded by Jack Arnett and passed unanimously.

No public comment was taken at the hearing with the Common Council instructed to base its decision purely on information presented through witness testimony and information supplied by counsel.

Testimony centered around whether the owners of the August Weber Haus, Steve and Diane Banas, were satisfying the terms of the city ordinance to hold a liquor license. All licensees in the city are now required to be open a minimum of 240 consecutive minutes, at least 15 days per month.

“One of the obstacles in our investigation was to verify the hours that the August Weber Haus was open,” Cedarburg Police Chief Tom Frank testified. “We had the opportunity to use a video recorder following our festival to monitor business activity. We did that through the month of July and it did not appear to be very much activity (that month). The business operates very sporadically outside of festival weekends.”

Frank said that after review, the investigation concluded they were not in compliance with the ordinance due to a lack of business activity, randomness of hours and days of operation. At times, the August Weber Haus would open before 8 a.m. in the morning and close before noon.

In testimony, Diane Banas reported that of the 304 days from January to October, the August Weber House has been open 192 days. She added that she is the person at the August Weber Haus 90 percent of the time.

“Is it fair to say that the vast majority of your business comes from festivals?” questioned Attorney Jonathan Woodward, who was representing the Cedarburg Police Department at the hearing.

“I can’t answer that, you’d have to ask my husband that question,” she said.

Timothy Algiers, the attorney representing the Banases, pointed out that a lack of clientele did not mean that the Banases were not complying with the ordinance.

He also cited that the Banases had outlined how they planned to conduct business in a letter to the city, among other things, stating that their operating hours would not be consistent due to the fact that they both work other jobs.

“Where in the ordinance does it say a business has to publish a fixed schedule? Or fixed hours in advance? Consistent hours as to times of the day? Consistent days per week?” Algiers questioned Frank.

These requirements were not specifically noted in the ordinance nor did the city advise the Banases of these requirements, according to Algiers.

“I believe Steve asked for clarification and he was directed back to the ordinance,” said Diane Banas in her testimony. “Had I been aware after listening to the questions (tonight), or even felt that the ordinance was different as far as posting my hours, posting ahead of time, posting days of the week, I would have done that. But that wasn’t the way we understood it; as far as we were concerned, we were following the ordinance the way it was written. Otherwise we would have made changes.”

Steve Banas was present but did not testify at the hearing.

In closing remarks, Woodward said that the city was not obligated to provide further information to the Banases in this respect.

“The city did provide fair notice and fair guidance, but this council, the city attorney’s office and city clerk are not the Banases’ attorney,” he said. “None of those entities have a responsibility to provide an advisory opinion. That is why the Banases have their own attorney.”

“Everything alleged as a violation in that complaint is not required by the ordinance,” countered Algiers.

“You have to look at the text of the ordinance,” said Woodward. “A business should not just be open, but be legitimately open to the public for business. The ordinance has a non-exhaustive list of factors that the council can look at to determine that. I also propose to you that it’s just a common-sense decision: Is this how a normal business would operate?”

With the revocation of the Class B liquor license, the August Weber Haus can no longer sell intoxicating beverages, including wine.

The Banases must now wait 12 months before reapplying for the license.

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