Troubled Evansville bar plans another gun show
An Evansville tavern and banquet hall in danger of losing its liquor license can continue holding gun shows with proper notice to authorities and removal of all alcohol from the venue, a sheriff's captain said.
But authorities say ongoing problems with underage drinking, intoxicated driving, fights and security have put Gene O's Wild Ride, 7530 N. County M, on the edge of having its liquor license revoked.
Bar owner Gene Heiman said he agreed to make changes to hold another gun show and is planning a one-day handgun show in about three weeks.
The Rock County Sheriff's Office on Sunday shut down the last day of a three-day gun show at Gene O's, also known as the old Red Barn, after concluding the bar was violating state statutes in regards to its Class B liquor license.
No single statute specifically prohibits gun shows in taverns, Capt. Jude Maurer said. After looking at multiple statutes, authorities determined the facility was violating statutes by allowing unaccompanied minors into the show where alcohol was being served and allowing a business other than the tavern to operate within the building, he said.
Heiman said this year was the 40th annual gun show held at his business, and he'd never had a problem or complaint until an anonymous caller expressed concerns to a 911 dispatcher Saturday night.
The show was canceled Sunday.
Heiman agreed he would notify law enforcement in advance of allowing underage people in for a gun show.
The building consists of a bar and a connected banquet hall. If Heiman wants to hold an event in the hall with 18- to 20-year-olds in attendance, the bar in the hall must be shut down and not allow underage people into the other bar, Maurer said.
While the issue over future gun shows appears to be resolved, Heiman still is upset about the loss of income from the canceled day of the last gun show. He said he is considering a lawsuit against the sheriff's office.
The Sunday incident was the latest in a series of issues the sheriff's office has responded to at the tavern in the last eight months.
The sheriff's office gave The Gazette a binder of administrative and incident reports detailing the office's responses at the bar in 2012.
According to the reports:
From Jan. 1 to Nov. 7, deputies received 41 calls for service, including 22 loud music complaints and six battery/disorderly conducts.
The incidents include underage alcohol violations, physical altercations that resulted in felony battery arrests, evidence of drug distribution and loud music complaints, all during nights when hip-hop music was being featured. One of the biggest concerns, Maurer said, is the potential for violence after shots were fired in the parking lot at closing time Oct. 28.
Seven shots were fired, but the crowd quickly dispersed and no arrests were made, according to the reports. A total of 11 shell casings were found in the parking lot, according to reports.
Heiman's wife, who is the acting manager of the bar and a bartender, according to reports, was cited for serving an underage person and allowing underage people on the premises Sept. 16.
Heiman said none of the allegations has been proven, and intoxicated driving offenses are past bar time and have nothing to do with his business. He thinks one hip-hop group retaliated against the bar for not hiring it by throwing the casings into the parking lot.
The sheriff's office documented the problems and presented them to the town board at a Nov. 13 meeting. The town board scheduled a Nov. 15 emergency meeting to consider revoking the bar's liquor license, but after hearing the legal requirements for the process, the board decided to hold off on a revocation, according to sheriff's reports.
Instead, board members gave Heiman several stipulations he must meet to postpone the license revocation, including no more hip-hop nights, according to the sheriff's reports. Town board members say Heiman voluntarily agreed to not host hip-hop nights, but Heiman said he never agreed to that promise.
Heiman has continued to host hip-hop entertainers and said he has one planned for Saturday night.
He said he plans to file a $250,000 federal lawsuit against town officials for racially discriminating against customers who attend the hip-hop nights. He alleges officials said they don't want "that kind of crowd" at the bar.
He said he had town Chairman Kendall Schneider and another supervisor served with notices of a lawsuit and requests to waive a notice of summons.
Schneider acknowledged receiving service, but said the papers he received are not legal documents and he does not plan to respond to them.
He laughed at the allegations of racial discrimination, saying nobody is talking about race.
"We just didn't want gunfire," he said.
Heiman said he was fed up and put the facility up for sale, but he said Thursday he planned to take the "for sale" sign down today.
Sgt. Troy Egger has been the sheriff's office liaison between the bar and the town board and was the person who informed Heiman about the gun show cancellation at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
The sheriff's office will assign someone else as the liaison, Mauer said. Having Egger continue in that role after the gun show incident wouldn't work because of a personality conflict and Heiman's misconceptions, Maurer said.
Town board member Kim Gruebling said the ball is in Heiman's court.
"We can't let our citizens get shot because somebody's got a bar open," he said.
Heiman has been "duly warned" that if the bar can't be run responsibly, the board will pursue revoking the liquor license, Gruebling said.