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Council denies Piano Lounge liquor license, approves Slippery Pete’s

BY EMILY HOERNER | JANUARY 26, 2011 7:10 AM

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The Piano Lounge has joined the growing list of bars whose liquor-license renewals have been denied, but for a different reason from the rest.

Iowa City City Council ors voted unanimously at their meeting Tuesday night to deny the bar its license renewal. Iowa City police Chief Sam Hargadine had requested the license not be renewed.

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton, who represented the police at the meeting, contended that one of the Piano Lounge’s three owners, Chad Freeman, violated the “good moral character” provision in liquor-license renewal.

“Good moral character” requires that bar owners not be a convicted felon, be financially stable, and be able to comply with the law.

Freeman, who owns 30 percent of the Piano Lounge — formerly a 19 and up bar — owes the city substantial amounts of money, Brotherton said.

He was also recently arrested on theft charges in Linn County for “not making good on a bad check,” Brotherton said.

“He is unwilling or unable to pay for his debts to the city,” she said.

His lack of payments reaches more than $46,000 in city fees, which shows his lack of good moral character, Brotherton said. The debt stems from his construction business, Freeman Construction.

The council had previously pushed the issue to a later date in order to allow Freeman to find a solution, said City Councilor Susan Mims.

“One reason I wanted to defer this is because there are two other owners to address the situation,” said Councilor Connie Champion.

No one from the Piano Lounge was present at the meeting.

“What underscores it for me is not only financial issues,” said Councilor Regina Bailey. “But the financial issues with the city.”

Mayor Matt Hayek said that the City Council hasn’t made much contact with the bar, but the owners could appeal and possibly stay open.

“I don’t see any choice but to deny,” Councilor Mike Wright said.

The motion carried unattested.

The liquor license of Slippery Pete’s — now home to the new Field House — was also on the line on Tuesday because of an outdated sprinkler system. But the business updated its facilities after the council deferred action last week.

The Fire Department recommended the City Council approve the license.


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