MANKATO — Boomtown, a Minnesota State University-area bar, will lose its liquor license for four days starting Wednesday, Oct. 31, the City Council decided Monday.
The suspension is largely a penalty for breaking the city’s 2007 drink specials ordinance, which makes it illegal to sell more than two drinks for a single price.
On Sept. 11, a Mankato police officer in plain clothes ordered a “Token Tuesday” special, which gives the buyer two drinks and a token that can be exchanged for a third, for $4.50.
In a letter to the city, Boomtown owner Dan Guimont defended the special. He wrote that the third drink is free, and it’s not illegal to give away a free drink.
City Manager Pat Hentges said during the meeting that it’s legal to give a drink away. But if that third free drink is related to the previous two-drink transaction, it’s part of a 3-for-1 special, he said.
The first of three violations was levied on July 25, 2011, also for the token special. A Sept. 7, 2011, meeting among Guimont, city staff and Councilman Mark Frost to discuss that violation would be remembered differently by the parties.
Guimont said he walked away from that meeting believing the token special was acceptable to police.
Frost, too, said he left thinking the same.
But a letter, dated Sept. 12, 2001, removed all doubt about the city’s position. It said, “... we maintain that you are selling three drinks for a single price and therefore it is a violation of the city ordinance ...”
Guimont, however, said he did not see the letter. City staff said it was sent by registered mail, though Guimont said he doesn’t know who signed for it.
The second violation was for two underage citations of Boomtown customers, on Nov. 18, 2011.
But city councilors said the first drink special violation, in July of 2011, should have been a hint that the special wasn’t acceptable. They voted unanimously to support the license suspension.
When asked about that after the meeting, Guimont replied, “we maintain the drink special is not illegal.”
Another issue is the timeline. The three violations are more than 13 months apart, though violations of this type typically disappear after one year.
City Attorney Eileen Wells said the one-year limit is not legally binding.
Guimont said he plans to challenge the ruling with an administrative law judge.
The rule about selling multiple drinks at once is meant to curb binge drinking. In 2007, Amanda Jax died of alcohol poisoning celebrating her 21st birthday.
“We had some very tragic accidents in Mankato that we are really trying to avoid happen again,” Councilman Jack Considine said.