Jakes may face license denial


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Local bar owner Mike Porter may be 0-for-2 with the Iowa City City Council.

Porter, who owns three downtown bars, received notice last week that he’s likely facing his second liquor-license denial in three months, documents released Thursday show.

Iowa City Fire Chief Andrew Rocca recommended the City Council deny Porter’s request for a liquor-license renewal for One-Eyed Jakes, 18-20 S. Clinton St. According to Rocca’s recommendation, the bar is in violation of stairway width as outlined in the International Fire Code.

Porter expected remodeling to widen the staircase would be completed before his license expired, but he said complications in installing the $80,000 staircase prolonged the project.

He also noted that even if the council were to deny him his license, he plans to continue reconstruction and appeal within the 30-day limit.

Porter predicted the project will be done in the next week and a half. He also completed several other projects at the bar, including installing a new sprinkler system that, combined with the staircase, will cost $180,000.

This isn’t the first time Porter’s bar has been in violation of the fire code.

In February 2007, fire officials cited the stairway violation but agreed not to deny the establishment’s license because the inspection report came too close to the renewal date and wouldn’t have allowed Porter to make the necessary changes.

Failure to widen the staircase one year later caused the fire officials to deny Porter’s license renewal.

In the fall of 2008, the City Council, the Fire Department, and Porter reached a settlement that stipulated if the bar owner successfully remodeled the staircase by Dec. 31, 2009, city officials would reverse their January 2008 license denial.

Porter failed to uphold to the settled agreement, according to the documents.

“This establishment has had sufficient time to comply with the settlement agreement and has failed to do so, prompting the Fire Department to recommend disapproval of their renewal application,” Rocca said in his recommendation.

Porter is also the owner of the Summit, 10 S. Clinton St., which was recently denied a liquor license by the City Council for its PAULA rate, and Vito’s, 118 E. College St., which is closed for a month after a citation for selling alcohol to minors. In November, Porter filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging the new PAULA policy — which requires the police chief recommend denying a license to any bar where officers write an average of more than one PAULA per visit — is unconstitutional.

The city councilors’ decision to deny Summit’s license request came after they denied licenses to 3rd Base, 111 E. College St., and Et Cetera, 118 S. Dubuque St. Administrative Law Judge Margaret LaMarche granted the latter two owners permission to keep their liquor licenses; the city has appealed to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverage Decision.

Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said three different departments can weigh in on liquor-license requests: fire, police, and inspection. Hargadine didn’t file a recommendation in this case because the bar wasn’t in violation of any law.

One Eyed Jakes’ PAULA ratio to date is exactly 1.0.

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