City Council Declines To Transfer Sidelines/Elevation Liquor License; Sonny Pilcher Owes Man Assaulted In Bar
Casper City Council Council, on a tie vote, declined to transfer a liquor license held by debt-ridden local businessman Sonny Pilcher at its meeting Tuesday.
"This issue is about a license holder fulfilling its obligation," said attorney Keith Nachbar, who represents a man who was assaulted at the bar formerly known as Sidelines.
Last month, council tabled the request to transfer the license owned by Pilcher's Crossroads View, Inc., to Z-Financial Administration Management, which does business as and owns the building Elevations at 1121 Wilkins Circle.
Nachbar opposed the transfer, telling council that Crossroads View still owes his client $20,022.39 for injuries sustained in a bar fight on Dec. 2, 2011. District Court Judge Thomas Sullins wrote on Oct. 8 that the bar -- through its bouncers -- was negligent in stopping the fight.
If council approved the transfer to Z-FAM, owned by local businessman Gail Zimmerman, Nachbar said it would act contrary to public policy by letting a license holder make a lot of money, incur a lot of debt, and just move on. "Financial stability is part of of being a license holder."
But Z-FAM's attorney Ken Barbe told the council earlier that a priority lien had been filed by Z-FAM against Crossroads View to secure delinquent rent amounting to $250,000, not counting an additional $46,000 sales tax lien. "My client has first claim," Barbe said.
The transfer, which would not involve any cash, would satisfy the conditions of the lease, he said.
If council does not transfer the lien, Nachbar's client nor other creditors will get anything, Barbe said. "It will only hurt my client."
Although Nachbar said council had a responsibility to ensure license owners were financially stable, councilmen Daniel Sandoval and Bob Hopkins wondered if investigating this transfer would set a bad precedent to examine the finances of other license holders and potential license receivers.
City Attorney Bill Luben agreed with Nachbar about the public policy regarding liquor licenses, but nothing requires council to take the next step to conduct financial investigations.
That step could result in council appearing capricious in future decisions, and the city doesn't have the staff to do that kind of work, Luben said.
Mayor Paul Meyer said, as a small-businessman that he's come out on the wrong end of deals and would not support the transfer.
However, councilman Charlie Powell said faces a difficult decision because he knows Nachbar's client, but does not want to head down the slippery slope of entangling the city in private business matters.
Powell was joined by Hopkins, Steve Cathey and Paul Bertoglio in voting for the transfer.
Meyer, Sandoval, Keith Goodenough and Kenyne Schlager voted no.
Councilman Craig Hedquist abstained.
After the vote, Nachbar praised the decision.
"If you allow a liquor license holder to run up debt, not pay your obligations and transfer that license on to another person, that's not fair, and that's not something that should be sanctioned by the city council," he said.