Capitol Club license revocation upheld


by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI

The city Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection ordered the closing of the Capitol Club, 4244 N. Milwaukee Ave., last week after the License Appeal Commission again upheld the revocation of the club’s liquor and business licenses.

The department revoked the club’s public place of amusement license and food license last August after the owner allegedly did not cooperate with a police investigation stemming from an incident in December of 2009, according the license appeal commission.

Chester Kiercul, the owner of the nightclub, appealed the department’s decision, and the commission heard the appeal in April. Business affairs department spokeswoman Jennifer Lipford said that Kiercul filed a petition for a rehearing on April 25 and that he was able to operate the business and serve liquor during the appeal process.

However, Lipford said that the business has been closed because the commission upheld it’s original revocation ruling on June 4 after Kiercul’s lawyer filed the petition for a rehearing days late.

Lipford said that filing a petition for a rehearing with the appeals commission was a formality needed in order to seek to have the case heard in Circuit Court. Kiercul has filed an appeal with the Circuit Court on June 17, according to a liquor license commission spokeswoman.
The appeal commission upheld the revocation of the licenses in April 25, even though it did not concur with all of the findings of the hearing commissioner.

One of the charges that the commission reviewed was that on Dec. 13, 2009, Kiercul allegedly failed to cooperate with a police investigation of illegal activity in the club and to truthfully answer questions posed by officers. Last year Kiercul was cited for minor building violations after a Department of Buildings task force conducted an inspection of the business in February that was triggered by a shooting in the club’s parking lot.

The business was cited for having an expired certificate for a pool table and for not having a permit for a sign over the public way. The department’s Web site shows numerous building violations over the years at the club, which failed inspections conducted by the task force in 2010 and 2011.
Three men were shot at about 2:45 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, during an altercation in the parking lot, according to 16th (Jefferson Park) District police. A man and a woman, both age 24, reported that they got into a fight with a man who retrieved a handgun from his car and fired several shots, hitting two men, age 22 and 25, in the leg and a 28-year-old man in the chest, according to police.

Alderman John Arena (45th) said the inspection was ordered as a way of starting a formal conversation with the owner so that he would be held accountable for what occurs at the nightclub. The area around the club has had a number of problems occur over the years, including a brawl which was filmed and posted online in 2010.

Arena said that since the process began, the owner has operated the business "better, but that doesn’t erase your past infractions."

"It’s a huge responsibility to have a liquor license," Arena said. "He can fight this at the Circuit Court level. My actions at the time were because of an incident in which two people were shot, shots were fired across Milwaukee and this is not the kind of action I want in the community."

"That’s just bad business operations," Arena said. "Why would anyone want to have a business where people are shooting at each other? I saw no management at the club. Allowing liquor at that club puts a responsibility on the club owner.

"He didn’t have responsible operations at the club," Arena said. "Up and down Milwaukee I don’t have a problem with other businesses operating. I’m outside of the input of the liquor commission."

The License Appeal Commission at its April 3 meeting summarized events from Dec. 13, 2009, in which officers were called to the nightclub and found a battery victim outside the club, according to the commission. Kiercul did not give officers security tapes that they requested, and an investigation found that an employee cleaned up the blood that was on the floor in the club, which contaminated a crime scene, according to the commission.

However, the appeal commission determined that the problem with that finding was that the owner was never charged with contaminating a crime scene and there was no evidence that anyone instructed the owner not clean up the blood, and it reversed the finding that the owner failed to cooperate under the city municipal code by ordering the clean-up of the blood.

The hearing commissioner determined that revocation of the license was appropriate, but the commission found that the hearing commissioner failed to indicate whether the revocation was appropriate for either of the failures to cooperate, which could be a basis for a reversal by the Circuit Court.

Kiercul said last week that he felt like the alderman was muscling him out of the ward after more than 30 years in business, but he declined to comment further.


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