12/07/11 The three members of the Marshall County ABC (Alcohol Beverage Commission) along with Indiana State Excise Police Master Officer, Michelle Traughber, voted unanimously on Tuesday to deny a renewal of a liquor permit for the Eagles Lodge in Plymouth.
According to Traughber, the club can continue to serve liquor at this time. Traughber told the board members of Vida Creed, Katie May and Maria Keller that the Indiana State ATC (Alcohol Tobacco Commission) could deny, uphold or overturn their decision that would come before them as a part of the appeal process. She said, “All the while during the process, they (Eagles) can continue to serve.” Traughber made the motion to deny and after further discussion, May seconded the motion.
Remonstrating against the permit renewal was Attorney Christine Wrage of Elkhart. Wrage explained that she was familiar with Marshall County proceedings having served in the Marshall County Prosecutor’s office from 1994-2005. She stated that she was representing David Fortin, owner of the Dandelion Bar in Plymouth. Fortin was out of town and could not attend the meeting.Wrage said the Eagles have had several violations during the past two years ranging from service to non-members to catering without proper permits. Wrage said they are registered as a club and have a limited number of days that they can serve non-members.
She went on to present copies of Facebook postings of 79 events. She said, “Only three or four of them were geared towards members.” Wrage presented examples of the Facebook postings that she feels constitute advertisements. She said they contain phrases such as “get your buzz on” and “next contestant to your drunk at the Eagles” that promote people to get intoxicated. Wrage said they were advertising as a retailer rather than a club by listing their hours of operation and naming bands. She then questioned their moral character because they have had repeated violations.
Wrage said the remonstrance was not about competition. She said Fortin has spent $18,000 over an 18-month period to advertise for people to patronize downtown Plymouth on signs along U.S. 31 and in Mishawaka that say there are five bars and 10 restaurants within walking distance.
She said, “This is not a knee-jerk response. It’s over two years.” She added, “What he (Fortin) is asking for is the denial of renewal.”
Wrage said, “This doesn’t prevent the eagles from continuing their goals or fundraisers. “It does show them you have to be responsible.” she said.
Reportedly, the Eagles paid a $700 fine for leasing their facilities without proper permits in December of 2010. On June 14, 2011 they were fined $300 for sales to non-members. Non-members are only allowed to purchase alcohol on guest days. Traughber said there were four other complaints after that time.
Responding for the Eagles was Brandon VanVactor, secretary of the local Eagles and president of District 4.
VanVactor said there had been a misunderstanding about the leasing of the catering facility since it is on the second floor of the building. He said they only found out 3-4 months ago that it was not permitted.
Traughber said there was a violation June 18 as well, but the amount of the fine was not in the state system. She indicated that there had been violations after the misunderstanding was cleared.
VanVactor volunteered that they had also paid a $300 fine at the end of October when they requested a letter of extension.
VanVactor said they are the only bar to offer free taxi rides and they have installed eight cameras recently inside the building. He went to on to talk about the number of benefits they have held. He said he was blindsided about appearing before the ABC Board and he would have been better prepared if he had known there was a violation.
Creed acknowledged the efforts made by the club to help the community. She said, “I realize the Eagles do a lot of things for the community. I think that’s wonderful.”
Wrage again spoke as a rebuttal saying, “This is not a bar. Just because you do one good thing, it doesn’t make up for violations.”
Traughber questioned VanVactor as to who had access to posting on Facebook. He listed five names of members. Traughber asked for their titles and it was discovered that they are all office holders for the Eagles.
At that point, she made the motion to deny the renewal that would send a recommendation to that effect to the ATC.
Once the ATC notifies the Eagles of the denial, they will have ten days to file an appeal.
In other matters, the board voted unanimously to approve a one-year permit for Hooples in Bremen. Hooples under the ownership of Edwin Morgan had a gambling violation. Permits are granted for two-year periods, but can only be given for one year if there is a violation. At an earlier meeting, Marshall County Treasurer Deb Van De Mark had told the Board that Hooples owed back taxes. Morgan explained on December 6 that the taxes have now been paid.
Mi Camino Real Mexican Restaurant was expected to appear before the Board for a renewable of their permit; however, no one was present. The matter was continued until the next meeting on January 3, 2011.
Carol Anders Correspondent