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City will allow state to rule on Spencer bowling alley’s liquor license

City will allow state to rule on Spencer bowling alley’s liquor license

State officials will have to decide whether Liberty Lanes’ liquor license gets renewed as they review the case of the owner’s other Spencer business, Southside Grill, which two weeks ago had its license renewal denied by the city council.

On Monday, the Spencer City Council voted to take no action on the Class C Liquor License for the bowling alley, noting in its motion that the application was “timely filed.”

“Which basically just means we’re passing the decision on to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division and not taking a yes or no stance as a council,” Mayor Kevin Robinson said during the meeting.


Liberty Lanes is owned by Chris Burg, who also owns Southside Grill. The “gentlemen’s steakhouse” is the focus of investigations into sales of alcohol to underage people and public indecent exposure.

The city council denied Southside Grill’s liquor license renewal earlier this month, citing the investigations.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office announced June 4 that charges were filed against one establishment employee, Jacoba Knight, for serving alcohol to two people under the legal age.


One of those people, authorities say, was an underage man who later died in a double-fatality accident in April on the same night that he had been served alcohol at Southside Grill.

No other charges have been announced, but the sheriff’s office has said it anticipates more charges in the future.

Spencer police are also conducting their own investigation.

Burg has said he is appealing the council’s denial of his license renewal at Southside Grill. He would be able to serve alcohol throughout the appeal process until the ABD rules on the case.


Burg was not at Monday’s meeting. He has said he is pursuing legal action against the city.

City attorney Don Hemphill told the council that its actions will allow Liberty Lanes to continue serving alcohol until the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) reaches its decisions.

“The (ABD)  is aware of your earlier action,” city attorney Don Hemphill said. “And they’re going to look, I’m sure, both at the earlier action and this action and make decisions on both of them. The difference here is, since we’re not denying, we don’t have the burden to establish a basis for denial. We’re essentially saying by your action we’re leaving it up to the state to decide.”

The council’s vote on Monday was unanimous, 5-0, with Ward 1 Councilman Tom Nelson and Councilman At Large Rich Prentice both absent.


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