City officials raise concern about activities at local business

City councilmembers want to meet with owners


Another business that sells alcohol in West Liberty submitted its application to renew its liquor license to the city council but the liquor license was only extended for the time being.

Palenque Bar, located at 312 North Calhoun Street, submitted the paperwork to the state for review in December, Deputy City Clerk Shari Hoffert said. The state didn’t get the paperwork to the city until after the license expired Dec. 10, 2022. Councilmember Cara McFerren asked West Liberty Police Chief Eric Werling if there were any issues with the bar.

Werling said he looked at the amount of calls they’ve received since 2021. The department did regular checks at the business but responded to three calls for disturbances regarding loud music, fights in progress, a hit and run at Palenque and an assault.

“Additionally, I’ve checked with my overnight officers and they have both heard people tell them when they’ve been doing the bar checks that there’s been service to some underage (patrons),” Werling said. “Also, have gotten that complaint from the community so I would say that checking in with them the way we did with Flamas (Nightclub) would probably be suggestible.”

Mayor Ethan Anderson asked Werling to clarify the time period the calls were received. Werling said 10 calls the police department responded to there was over two years.

Anderson asked city council what they would like to do about the application.

“It does seem like the process we went through with Flamas seemed to be effective in bringing them to the table and having a conversation about things and building the relationship,” Anderson added. “And also maybe resolving some of the issues that they were having. Should we do that again?”

Councilmember Dana Dominguez said she thought it was a good idea to have a conversation with the owners of Palenque Bar like they did with Flamas Nightclub.

“Have the owners been talked to about the complaints about the minors being served?” Dominguez asked Werling.

“When the officers try to talk to somebody about it, they’re met with a lot of resistance,” Werling replied.

The meeting with Flamas Nightclub went so well because the conversation was with a city councilmember and not just a police officer, Werling added.

“Is there a councilmember who would like to accompany Chief Werling to talk to them?” Anderson asked.

City councilmember Joshua Shiltz Costa and Dominguez agreed to do so.

Hoffert told city council since Palenque’s liquor license already expired, a 30-day grace period would need to be approved by the city council for the time being until a decision is made about whether or not the liquor license is approved. Palenque Bar can continue to sell until a resolution is agreed upon.

McFerren mentioned that the individual named on the liquor license application for Palenque Bar was employed by Simpson Memorial Home, where her husband Cliff worked. She didn’t want there to be any conflict of interests to be perceived and didn’t think she should be meeting with them.

“If I can make myself available I can go with Josh,” Dominguez said. “If that makes you more comfortable Cara?”

McFerren said she just didn’t want there to be an accusation of retaliation against Palenque Bar.

Geertz told McFerren the city council would be voting on as an entity but agreed with McFerren discussing the possibility of a conflict of interest was good to prevent any issues that may come from that.

“These are important things,” Anderson said. “I think it’s good that the (city) council is making it clear that it won’t be a rubber stamp.”

The motion to renew the liquor license was voted down 4 – 0. Councilmember Omar Martinez was absent.

A motion was made to extend the liquor license for 30-days was approved. McFerren abstained from voting on the extension.