Court returns club’s liquor license for now
March 18, 2006
The Monkey Bar, a private club whose entertainment has pushed the limits of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission’s standards since it opened, is once again serving drinks to patrons.
In the last week of February, Summit County Third District Court Judge Bruce C. Lubeck granted the Main Street establishment its request for a stay of the commission’s revocation of the club’s liquor license earlier this year as it appeals the agency’s order. The Monkey Bar reopened March 1.
Monkey Bar owner Gregg Davison says the ruling "sets a precedent," allowing any licensee who has a license revoked to "meet the threshold requirement to be open under injunctive relief for the appeal process — that is, that the act of taking the license will constitute serious harm."
According to Davison, closing his club’s doors pending the litigation of his appeal would be financially ruinous and could damage the club’s reputation.
The private club had been closed, beginning January 31, following the commission’s order, which included a fine of $4,286.53. Commissioners claim the Monkey Bar violated a previous settlement agreement regarding the stage area and the dancers’ attire on stage.
DABC presiding officer Earl Dorius told The Park Record in February that the establishment never received the commission’s approval for its stage area and not only continued to use the stage area, but on at least one occasion allowed dancers to entertain wearing only latex paint.
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A settlement agreement in 2005 stipulated that the club needed the state’s approval of the stage area in order to guarantee dancers were a good distance away from patrons, he said.
Judge Lubeck’s recent decision may have tentatively returned the Monkey Bar’s liquor license, but according to Dorius, within the order of the report, the judge made clear that "the prior order of the commission which required stage approval, etc., and required dancers to be attired a certain way, is still in effect."
"Before they can return to that type of dancer entertainment on the stage, the stage has to be approved by the commission," he confirmed. "In other words, as I read the court’s opinion they are entitled to keep their license, but the earlier order is in effect They are not allowed to have dancing."
The Monkey Bar’s rapport with the commission has been on unsteady ground for nearly three years.
In 2004, the DABC brought six counts against the Monkey Bar, including charges that the establishment permitted simulated sexual intercourse on three occasions. The charges were based on the accounts from a month-long investigation by the Park City Police Department during which officers reported paying for lap dances at the bar.
In 2005, the DABC suspended the club’s liquor license for 32 days as part of a settlement agreement regarding "sexy dancing at the nightclub" and fined the club $1,540.40.
After the commission pulled the establishment’s license this year, Davison filed for an appeal to petition a review of the final agency action and for a stay of agency order. Documents filed with the court state that the Monkey Bar has submitted plans to modify the stage area to the DABC on two occasions, but the plans were rejected.
Davison describes Judge Lubeck’s ruling as a "real blow to the liquor commission" who "once again is operating outside the confines of the law, and breaking contracts as they see fit."
He says that this month, he has continued to use the Monkey Bar’s stage area "as it has been used in that establishment for the past 22 years and as it was presented to the liquor commission, when the Monkey Bar’s 2005 license was granted in full compliance with state law."
When the current liquor license was approved by the DABC, Davison argues, so was the stage.
"Liquor licenses are approved June 1 of every year. When the licenses of all the other 295 clubs in the state of Utah were approved in full compliance with the state law, their stages were approved," he explained. "So the question is, are they approving each of those clubs in the state of Utah in violation of the state law, or are they approving those stages as part of the licensed process?"
According to Davison, the state’s statute is very clear: they must approve every stage where entertainment occurs. Each private club must disclose the type of entertainment they plan to have in their liquor license application and, he says, "the Monkey Bar was truthful and open" when they submitted their application last year.
Dorius maintains that the judge’s latest ruling was not unusual.
"District judges get stay applications all the time," he explained.
And if the Monkey Bar chooses to allow dancers on the stage at this point in the appeal process?
"Well, then, we’re right back where we started," Dorius said.
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