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Fat Cat's starts its 15-day liquor license suspension

Date: 1/2/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — The bar that was the location for a fight earlier this fall that left four police officers injured was given a 15 day suspension of it a liquor license on Dec. 27 by the Board of License Commissioners for a separate violation.

Fat Cat's attorney Van Johnson and its Manager Shavone Gauthier stipulated to a charge that the bar was not operating a kitchen despite the fact its liquor license demanded it do so.

In a surprise move, Johnson said his client wanted to begin the suspension that night in order to get through it. The bar will be closed Dec. 27, 28, 29, Jan. 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, and 26. Fifteen more days of suspension will be in abeyance for the next year.

In an often, emotional exchange, Gauthier, armed with a chart of the club's floor plan, asserted the club did serve food. When asked by Alesia Days, the city's director of licensing, if she chose not to stipulate, Gauthier said she would.

Johnson said Gauthier was just providing context for the Board.

Commissioner Raymond Berry was the only vote against the suspension. He expressed concerns about the jobs that would be affected by the lengthy suspension.

Gauthier said that since the gas explosion that leveled one building and damaged many others people have been staying away from the entertainment district and her business is down 80 percent.

The Board, after a routine inspection by Springfield police earlier this year, called in a number of bars that held licenses requiring the business to have a kitchen. Some establishments started serving food, while others were told they would have to re-apply for a license that only permitted the sale of alcohol.

Fat Cat's was among those businesses inspected and a controversy arose at the initial meeting concerning the license when the bar's former attorney claimed that the adjoining Brick City restaurant was actually owned by the bar and provided its food service.

Subsequently, the Brick City owners said that they are a separate business.

By establishing that 40 percent of a bar's receipts come from the sale of food, any bar in the city can make an appeal to have the now mandatory 1 a.m. entertainment license extended to 2 a.m. Fat Cat's representatives were supposed to attend a hearing on the bar's entertainment license also on Dec. 27 in a separate meeting, but asked for a continuance.

Board Chairman Peter Sygnator called the claims made by the former attorney were "a gross misrepresentation."

Sygnator told Johnson that the owners of Fat Cat's must appear before the Board with documents to show that Brick City has been removed from any sub-lease agreements. He said that the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has punished bars that have entered into an unauthorized sub-leasing agreement with a suspension of license for three to six months.

The Police Department has not yet forward a report to the board for action on the 60-person melee.

In other action, the board denied a new beer and wine license for Liberty Beer and Wine at 668 Liberty St. citing concerns from neighborhood residents and the number of licenses concentrated in the neighborhood.

The board approved a late renewal of the license for O'Brien's Corner and admonished owner Brian O'Brian for being late.