By Al Stanek
Whitewater Banner volunteer staff
The owner of a popular downtown Whitewater student-oriented tavern reportedly has agreed to suspend operations for two months this Fall as part of a compromise to avoid potential nonrenewal of the bar’s liquor license.
Gregory Condos, the registered agent for GAC Enterprises, Inc., which conducts business as Pumpers & Mitchell’s at 158-162 West Whitewater Street, faces the potential action after the Whitewater Police Department recommended nonrenewal because of what was described as an excessive number of related police calls and a history of being nonresponsive to department requests to curb underage drinking and do a better job of monitoring patron behavior. The agreement was hammered out after two public hearings in front of the Whitewater Alcohol Licensing Review Commission.
City Licensing Commission Acting Chair and Common Council member James Allen offered this observation at the May 20th hearing: “It’s very difficult for Council members to hear something like this. We don’t want to shut a business down for a couple of months; we want to bring businesses to the city. But these actions flew in the face of those who follow the rules.”
The agreement would renew Pumpers & Mitchell’s license for the period of July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 but temporarily suspend the ability to operate from September 1 through November 2. It also includes a half dozen other conditions ranging from improved video recording and fake ID detection technology as well as enhanced staff training and cooperation with police to requiring background checks for employees along with more aggressive actions to refuse service to those who appear to be intoxicated.
At an initial hearing on May 3 Whitewater Police Chief Aaron Raap provided Alcohol Licensing Commission members with summaries of 70 police incidents referencing Pumpers & Mitchell’s that had occurred in the period between May 6, 2020 and April 22, 2021. Raap, who served for over 26 years as a Milwaukee police officer, told committee members that as a District Captain in Milwaukee he was responsible for an area that included “40 or 50” similar taverns and had not seen that type of related police activity tied to one licensee. He also pointed out that Whitewater PD senior officers requested better cooperation from the establishment in October of last year without success.
Raap said that evidence pointed to a “pattern and practice” of the establishment that indicated “an uncooperative management style and absenteeism on the part the licensee.”
Pumpers & Mitchell’s representatives argued that the establishment was being unfairly singled out because of their role as “a closing bar.” The manager offered the observation that because the facility had a dance floor many customers migrate there as closing-time approaches after drinking at other establishments or at parties. He also pointed out that he felt that the tavern had robust security on site and that identification of fake IDs is extremely difficult. In addition, the bar manager and licensee Condos pointed to the fact that they had recently taken delivery of a state-of-the-art technology for identifying fake IDs and linking IDs to images of the individuals presenting them to enter.
The three member commission voted unanimously to recommend the proposed settlement agreement to the Common Council, which is expected to be on the agenda at its next meeting on June 1, and as a consequence agreed to postpone what was anticipated to be a very lengthy nonrenewal hearing that was scheduled for May 24. Gregory Condos has reportedly signed off on the agreement.