Nerneys face uphill battle
Colorado gives local licensing authorities great latitude
February 29, 2008
Steamboat Springs — “I’ll see you in court,” were some of the last words Kathy Nerney said to the Steamboat Springs City Council on Feb. 19, but the embroiled restaurant and bar owner may face an uphill legal battle should she make good on the promise.
Nerney’s comment was made in response to a condition that the City Council, acting as the city’s Liquor License Authority, placed on the approval of her liquor license for the Jade Summit restaurant and its upstairs bar, Pirate’s Pub. The condition states that Kathy Nerney’s husband, Kevin Nerney, who is the original business owner and former license holder at the Ski Time Square establishment, not be allowed on the premises during business hours.
The Nerneys consider the condition outrageous, but the broad latitude given to local licensing authorities by the state may make it a hard one to overturn. City Clerk Julie Jordan said Thursday that the city has not received notice of the Nerneys taking new legal action against the city. A judicial review of the city’s revocation of Kevin Nerney’s liquor license is pending.
Assistant City Attorney Dan Foote said he would be comfortable defending the condition of approval, citing a state statute that says a liquor license shall not be issued to “any person employing, assisted by, or financed in whole or in part by any other person who is not of good character and reputation.”
“The condition was introduced to satisfy that requirement,” Foote said. “In my opinion, yes, I think it’s a reasonable stipulation.”
The previous City Council revoked Kevin Nerney’s liquor license Nov. 8 in response to allegations that he made unlawful sexual contact with a patron at his bar in February 2007. He was cleared of the charges in criminal court in August 2007, but the City Council held its own hearings and decided Nerney violated state liquor codes.
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State liquor officials said Thursday that the city’s condition on Kathy Nerney’s license is not only permissible, but also somewhat common.
“I’ve seen it many times throughout the years,” said Matt Cook, a senior director of enforcement with the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch said Division of Liquor/Tobacco Enforcement Director Laura Harris wishes more local licensing authorities would be as assertive in imposing such stipulations.
“When there are trouble-type situations, that happens occasionally,” said Couch, referring specifically to the spouse of a license holder being banned from the licensed premises. “It’s about a dozen times a year that this happens throughout the state.”
Last week, Kevin Nerney began protesting the council’s most recent action by setting up camp outside the restaurant’s front door, vowing to remain there during business hours, seven days a week, until the council rescinds its decision to prohibit him from entering the business. Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae said Nerney’s protest is permissible.
“Unless we receive a specific complaint from a property owner, then he’s all right,” Rae said.
Kevin Nerney said, “I’m going to be here for the duration,” from his makeshift camp last week, but he could not be found at the site Wednesday afternoon or late Thursday morning; his tent was stashed near the Jade Summit’s front door. Reached by phone Thursday, Kathy Nerney said the couple did not wish to comment.