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Cudahy puts knife to The Thirsty Moose

Tavern owner seeks judicial review of license revocation

March 4, 2009

The Thirsty Moose isn't going down without a fight.

The attorney representing the tavern at 3800 E. Layton Ave. is seeking a judicial review of the hearing that led to bar owner Cristie Bonchek's liquor license being revoked, and to have the revocation stayed until the review is completed.

Attorney Alan Eisenberg submitted his petition for a writ of certiorari in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on March 5. He is seeking to have a judge review the material to ensure that the case against Bonchek was handled properly.

In Bonchek's affidavit, she alleges Alderwoman Mary Schissel, who chairs the city's Rules, Laws and Licensing Committee that recommended the revocation of Bonchek's license, had a "severe conflict of interest" because her brother owns Bonchek's "only competitor," Club Bagdad. She further alleges that the rest of the committee was misinformed about the conflict of interest.

The writ of certiorari submitted by Eisenberg says city officials did not provide adequate reasons for their decision to revoke Bonchek's liquor license, claiming the Common Council's March 3 decision was "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable."

Eisenberg filed a $2 million harassment claim against the city on behalf of Bonchek just days before the committee recommended her liquor license be revoked.

A notice of claim often is a precursor to a lawsuit. Eisenberg said he and Bonchek may file a lawsuit against the city.

City Attorney Paul Eberhardy said officials will act within their legal right and respond to litigation as necessary.

Lawyer: 'scandalous'

Eisenberg, who asked that the council "not crucify Cristie" for disturbances at the bar, wanted aldermen to delay their decision before the March 3 vote so they could review the transcripts of the Feb. 25 revocation hearing.

"Those who were there that are here tonight will have a chance to take a second look at it, which I think is critical, and those who were not there, who haven't seen it and didn't know what went on, should read it because I think it is completely scandalous what took place," Eisenberg said.

Officials could have imposed other sanctions on Bonchek such as a temporary suspension, he said.

"In my 43 years of going to councils and committees, I have never seen somebody wind up with a revocation for something like this - never," he said, wondering aloud if the city was trying to drive the bar's owner to financial ruin.

"There's just something so unfair about this," Eisenberg added. "You just shouldn't do this to this woman."

Shutdown only option

Mark Stephens, an attorney for the Cudahy Police Department, said allegations that city officials are harassing Bonchek "just don't bear out."

Police Chief Thomas Poellot met with Bonchek twice during March and June in 2008 to discuss issues at the tavern. Her license was renewed but the behavior continued, Stephens said. He said police considered other means to solve the issues at the bar besides license revocation.

"The Thirsty Moose is a dangerous place that is out of control, and frankly on behalf of the Police Department, there is no other solution to this problem other than removing the license and closing the tavern," Stephens said.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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