Class E liquor licenses in peril

By Laura Grandt

With an upcoming decision on a resolution that would affect Class E liquor licenses in town, some business owners are contemplating the effect of a changed ordinance.

The resolution, up for a vote at the city council meeting Monday, could force Class E liquor license holders to close one hour earlier.

Class E liquor licenses are intended for restaurants serving liquor, but allow no more than 40 percent of sales to come from liquor. Currently, both Class A licensees, including bars and liquor stores, and Class E licensees have to stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Another part of the resolution could extend closing time by one hour on Thursdays.

Some Class E licensees would not be affected by a change.

Rosita’s Mexican Restaurant, 642 E. Lincoln Highway, closes at 10 p.m. during the week, and 11 p.m. on the weekends. Liquor sales at Rosita’s come through the service bar. If the ordinance passes, the restaurant will not be affected, manager Jennifer Herrmann said.

This is not the case for all restaurants, however.

Dennis Radcliff, owner of the Husky Dawg Pound, 1205 W. Lincoln Highway, said the restaurant has been open for only two months, but business has increased steadily. Radcliff said his business could lose up to $100,000 per year because of a combination of losing business to area bars and losses because of reduced hours of liquor sales.

Radcliff said the loss of business would be sparked both by later hours allowed to Class A licensees if the ordinance was changed, and because bars advertise food to compete with restaurants.

“If Class A [licensees] would leave food alone, a lot more people would come in to me,” Radcliff said.

Radcliff said he does not understand why all establishments can’t have the same hours.

“If I went by my alcohol sales, I would have closed my door a long time ago,” Radcliff said, adding that 80 to 85 percent of his revenue comes from food.

Adam Siemiaszko, owner of Rosemary’s, 122 S. First St., said he understands both sides of the debate, but thinks the actions of some Class E licensees have caused potential action to be taken against all Class E licensees. Siemiaszko said he is concerned with another part of the ordinance that, if passed, would not allow Class E liquor license holders to charge a cover charge.

Rosemary’s has private parties that pay a flat fee to the restaurant. Sometimes, these parties charge a cover for their guests and keep the profits.

Siemiaszko said he is worried the ordinance could prevent his guests from charging a cover. He also is worried about the possibility of extra audits of Class E establishments. He is not worried about failing, he said, but rather about the cost of hiring a CPA and preparing the audit.

Siemiaszko said he does not want his restaurant to be lumped together with those who do not operate under the spirit of the Class E license, which is selling alcohol as a complement to selling food.

“I just wish the city would look at this on a case-by-case basis rather than doing it in a blanket manner,” he said.