City not moving on controversial bars

By Chris Steinbach · Tuesday, September 18, 2012
West Liberty City Council members didn’t budge Sept. 4 in their efforts to control what they see as problems at downtown bars.

The council tabled action until its Sept. 18 meeting to approve a six-month liquor license for the El Alacran Bar. Sergio Hernandez-Gonzalez has been working to open El Alacran at 321 N Calhoun St. in the former Palenque bar.

Hernandez-Gonzalez has no criminal record and Hector Martinez Sr. is listed as the landlord for the business, according to court and city records.

But Mayor Chad Thomas said Hernandez-Gonzalez owes about $1,200 in outstanding bills to the city that must be paid before the license application is considered. “That’s something that needs to be taken care of maybe before we issue a liquor license,” he said.

The Council last month turned down a liquor license application for the Palenque, citing the bar’s history of fights and liquor law violations, along with issues with members of the Martinez family. Hector Martinez Jr. is in prison on drug charges.

Last month, the Council also turned down a request to renew the liquor license for the St. Louis Sports Bar at 102 E.  Fourth St. Police had recommended denying the license because of liquor-law violations and fights.

Alfredo Chavez, who owns the sports bar, told the Council last week through his wife, Hilda, who served as an interpreter, that he is willing to cooperate with police. He has appealed the liquor license denial with Iowa’s Alcoholic Beverages Division.

Thomas said the Council will wait for the results of the appeal before taking action to reconsider the liquor license application.

Police Chief P.J. Brewer said he has met with Chavez about the bar’s problems, which have continued to be issues.

Speaking for her husband, Hilda Chavez said their bar is a new business and everyone deserves a second chance. “We are aware we have committed several errors,” she said. “We’re willing to cooperate with the police and make the changes you told us we need to work on … He understands it was his fault and is willing to change that.”
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