By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – A tavern in the village was granted a new Class B liquor and beer license for 2020-21, but also received a 30-day license suspension, effective July 1, because of a series of reported violations.
The Howard village board voted 8-1 at its June 22 meeting to renew the license along with the suspension for the G Pub at 2027 Velp Ave., which is owned by Humberto Serrano.
The renewal is subject to the following conditions:
• No longer employ Robert Solberg.
• Have the premises up to date on the village’s fire code.
• Purchase alcohol for the business in accordance with state law.
• Install working security cameras.
• Have a licensed bartender on the premises.
Serrano, who appeared at the board meeting along with his attorney, Jevon Jaconi, agreed to the terms.
Because Serrano also agreed to the 30-day suspension, a subsequent hearing wasn’t necessary.
Village Attorney Robert Gagan informed the board about a series of violations reported at G Pub, where the board could have voted to not renew the license upon determining Serrano maintained a disorderly house as defined by state law.
The violations cited were as follows:
• A fight occurred on the premises May 19, for which criminal charges for substantial battery and disorderly conduct were referred to the Brown County District Attorney’s Office.
• A failure to have a licensed bartender on the premises when the May 19 disturbance occurred.
• A violation of the Village of Howard fire code regarding wires hanging from the ceiling.
• An untruthful statement by the license holder regarding a question on the license holder’s renewal application related to paying taxes.
• The failure of the license holder and his manager to cooperate with police regarding the May 19 incident.
• Violating Wisconsin laws for purchasing alcoholic beverages, as reported by a state agent.
In response, Jaconi said the bar was not open at the time of the fight, while Solberg, who was the manager and known by police as someone awaiting sentencing in federal court related to vehicle odometer tampering, no longer has anything to do with the bar.
“I can tell you that the bar has not been open for over 60 days – a combination of COVID, getting rid of the manager, seeing about getting two new managers,” Jaconi said.
He said the wires found from the ceiling were speaker wires, and the village’s fire marshal subsequently did an inspection and found the building to be in compliance with the fire code.
Jaconi said Serrano has now filed taxes for 2018 and it was Solberg who purchased alcohol improperly, not obtained from a distributor, without Serrano consenting.
Because the board renewed the license with a suspension, Gagan said the board also has the option to revoke it during the license period.
Serrano said he has owned the G Pub for two years and “screwed up” taking the word of Solberg, who helped him with the bar.
“He told me all that stuff was solved,” Serrano said. “He said that everything was done.”
When asked by the board about Solberg’s role at G Pub, Serrano referred to him as a promoter for the bar.
Trustee Cathy Hughes, who cast the lone dissenting vote to renew the license, said she found it “hard to sort out as to what’s exactly the real story” related to Solberg’s involvement.
Hughes also questioned whether Serrano could operate the business in compliance with applicable laws.
“There’s a lot of questions here,” Hughes said. “Mr. Serrano seems to be a very hard worker – I will give him that – but for as long as he’s been in the hospitality business, he doesn’t seem very familiar with what he needs to do, and I have a concern with that.”
Board members who voted to renew the license said they did so reluctantly.
“I will be in favor of it, but only narrowly,” said Trustee Ray Suennen.
Suennen said he had a “certain amount of disbelief” because of the difference between statements Serrano made and information contained in the police and state agent reports.
Trustee John Muraski said he hopes there will be no more incidents at G Pub, because he wouldn’t favor renewing the license at that point.
Village President Burt McIntyre said the 30-day suspension is fair, and he didn’t think imposing a longer suspension would make the situation better at G Pub.