By Robert Willams
After having its liquor license reissued in May, the Frazee VFW Post 7702 was on thin ice and under watch to ensure there were no more violations that might affect its status with the city.
Two weeks ago, the club was in violation by having patrons after hours on two consecutive weekend evenings, according to Chief of Police Tyler Trieglaff.
“Is it technically a misdemeanor violation? Yes,” Trieglaff said.
According to city ordinance 3-2-16 regarding the hours and days of sale of consumption and presence on premises, no consumption is permitted 30 minutes after the time of legal sales. Establishments serving alcohol in Frazee close at 1 a.m., meaning patrons must stop drinking and leave by 1:30 a.m.
“That’s been the standard; it’s been our ordinance since 2005,” said Trieglaff. “We do not have any 2 o’clock licenses in town.”
Trieglaff reported patrons were still in the club at 1:45 a.m.
Councilman Mark Flemmer is meeting with the club leadership later in the week and offered to investigate further, but was rebuffed as both the police and rest of the council wanted to enforce the ordinance.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Trieglaff. “They were still in there. Is it the first time? No. First time since they’ve been reopened since I’ve really seen.”
Trieglaff also noted he is not going out of his way to find club violations.
“We leave it be,” he said. “I don’t go snooping and peeping every night, but when you see there’s six cars left out there, I went and did some digging.”
A letter from the police department regarding the violation was delivered to VFW commander Robert Clarey on Thursday, Sept. 15.
“The VFW club committee has directed the folks over there to be gone and to close up shop, so if they’re not doing it we need to get after that,” said Flemmer.
Flemmer offered to take care of the issue at his upcoming meeting, but was immediately challenged by councilman Mark Kemper, who was inclined to add a license suspension to the fine.
“They were here and got their license and were informed any violations would be a suspension,” said Kemper.
Kemper wanted more teeth behind the enforcement with the VFW, given the club’s history.
An investigation remains ongoing on the violations that got the club’s license revoked earlier this year.
Kemper also had the city ordinance to back up his desire for a suspension, as any violation of any condition of 3-2-16 may be grounds for revocation or suspension of the license or civil penalty.
The $500 fine was issued after conferring with city attorney Thomas Winters.
The conversation hemmed between a $500 to $1,500 fine, but the council determined both days were the same violation.
Kemper wanted both days to count as two separate violations, as did councilwoman Nicole Strand initially, but an agreement was met on one violation after Trieglaff noted he could have gone into the club on the first night and made the violation known to patrons and employees on duty.
“I agree if we treat the two as one because if I would have gone knocking in there and stomping around and throwing my arms the first night and then they’d done it again the second night then I would consider that two violations,” he said.
For the first violation within any three 3-year period, a penalty of $500 may be issued with any following penalties rising to $1,000 for a second violation, $2,000 for a third. Those amounts are a minimum schedule of presumptive civil penalties in addition to any suspensions which must be imposed unless the license is revoked.
A hearing is not required before the penalty is imposed, but the council shall hold a hearing on the proposed violation and the proposed penalty and hear any person who wishes to speak, according to city code.
That hearing is scheduled for the October 17 city council meeting.
Nonpayment of the penalty is grounds for suspension or revocation of the license.