Flamas Nightclub will keep their liquor license for another year.
The West Liberty City Council approved the liquor license renewal application during the Jan. 3 meeting but first heard from Police Chief Eric Werner and councilmember Cara McFerren about their meeting with the owners.
“I think the meeting went very well,” McFerren said. “We did offer some suggestions that they were really receptive to.”
McFerren suggested the city council approve the liquor license renewal for a year, keep the owners to task with making changes at the nightclub and make a decision based off what has been done when they apply for a liquor license renewal next year.
Police Chief Eric Werling agreed with McFerren. He also mentioned the people who owned Flamas Nightclub were new and didn’t know all of the rules for that type of establishment.
“So one thing they don’t currently have is last call protocol,” Werner said. “They serve alcohol up until 1:45 (a.m.) and state law says you can’t serve between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., so they were serving up (to that time) real close. I can’t drink a beer in 15 minutes. I don’t know of many people who can so we talked about how having an actual last call protocol (would help.)”
Werner suggested to the owners they make a big deal about having last call set before 1:45 a.m. For example, if Flamas Nightclub had its last call a half an hour earlier, this would give the nightclub time to finish its alcohol sales for the evening and would give people time to finish their last drink.
Werner and McFerren also talked to the owners about the buckets of beer they sell there.
“It’s a literal bucket that they put six beers in and they put ice in it,” Werner said. “They will sell those right up until 1:45 (a.m.) so I said we should probably selling those earlier in the night.”
Werner and McFerren suggested to the owners they finish selling the buckets of beer around midnight, he added.
Another topic that came up was limiting the amount of alcohol each patron can purchase.
“Many of the bars in the Iowa City area because they were having issues with drinking after hours, limit it to two alcoholic drinks per patron,” Werner said. “And that way if I want to buy a bucket of six I can bring a few friends.”
They also spoke about handling things that happen outside of the building, McFerren and Werner said. The nightclub does a good job of handling things that happen inside the building but when people leave and go to the parking lot they have had a hands off approach. Werner suggested the nightclub hire security to address this issue.
“Do they have surveillance?” councilember Dana Dominguez asked Werner.
“There are physically cameras that exist,” Werner responded. “I do not know if they work.”
McFerren and Werner also spoke to the owners about the capacity of the building.
“They said one of their big events they had maybe 400 or 500 people, which that place seems small for 400 people,” Werner said. “We asked them when was the last time they had an inspection was to get their max capacity (limit). They were looking for it but couldn’t find it. I would suggest the (city) council ask for that because I think that is important because that’s a safety thing.”
“They have to have that posted, don’t they?” Dominguez asked.
Werner said he thought so but it wasn’t currently posted anywhere in the building.
“Right, and that was a question I asked,” McFerren said. “They couldn’t really answer me genuinely.”
McFerren suggested the city council start asking for inspections of businesses like this.
City Administrator David Haugland said the city council could approve the liquor license renewal subject to having an inspection done.
Mayor Ethan Anderson asked Haugland if the city’s building inspector was the one who sets building capacity limits typically.
The city’s building inspector initially sets the capacity limits for businesses like this, Haugland said. Then someone from the state fire marshal’s office follows up but Haugland said they could definitely have the city’s building inspector follow up on this.
“Yeah, because that’s what was concerning me,” McFerren said.
If the building has 300 to 500 people there and one security person, it’s a lot to deal with and is a safety concern, Werner added.
“As councilmember McFerren said they were really receptive to everything we had to say,” Werner said. “I would say everything that we talked about is stuff in general I would talk about with any of our establishments that serve alcohol at night - just as general guidelines go.”
Werner said he wasn’t picking on the owners of Flamas Nightclub but thought having these guidelines set for them would be helpful.
“I think that having those in place and we want to make sure they succeed and make sure there aren’t any issues later,” McFerren added. “My only concern is that they don’t live in town. If there was an emergency to my knowledge they could be driving three hours to get here.”
“Right,” Anderson said. “Their address is Aurora, Illinois.”
Anderson asked the city council how they wanted to proceed with the liquor license renewal application.
McFerren suggested they approve it with the stipulation of having an inspection.
Councilmember Ashley Smith asked how long the liquor license would be good for.
Anderson and Haugland both said for a year.
Smith said OK and that the city council could review whether or not the owners of the nightclub made any of the suggested changes next year.
Werner agreed with Smith and said this was his suggestion for the city council. They could approve the liquor license for a year, see how things go and revisit it next year when the time comes for the liquor license to be renewed.
The city council approved the liquor license renewal unanimously. City councilmember Omar Martinez was absent from the meeting.