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Portage officials suspend The Ball Room from serving alcohol for 3 days

April 3, 2019

Portage officials have ordered a brief liquor license suspension for a downtown bar where a minor reportedly used a false identification card to buy alcohol and on a separate occasion, the bar failed a compliance check.

The city will prohibit The Ball Room from serving any alcohol for three days.

During a Legislative and Regulatory Committee meeting Monday night, The Ball Room owner Mike Ganz took responsibility for what he described as a mistake that wouldn’t happen again.

“This is not our norm by any means,” Ganz said, adding he will comply with city ordinances and work to prevent similar incidents in the future. “We’re owning up to it.”

City ordinances require the committee to enforce a liquor license suspension of between three and 10 days if the licensee accumulates too many demerit points, City Attorney Jesse Spankowski said.

The Ball Room had accumulated at least 100 demerit points in the last 18 months, Committee Chairman Mike Charles said.

Two separate incidents each cost 50 demerit value points, Charles said.

City regulations penalize 50 points for serving alcohol to a minor.

The Ball Room will be required to cease serving alcohol at 12:01 a.m. April 28. The bar, which is closed every Monday, also will be prohibited from serving alcohol April 30 and May 1.

The bar will be allowed to resume serving alcohol May 2.

The committee’s members largely expressed approval of how Ganz intended to correct the problem. Charles said he was pleased that Ganz already had spoken to Portage Police Chief Ken Manthey to ask for guidance on finding a solution.

One such solution discussed was to require all bartenders to retake training courses on serving alcohol. Manthey said that approach has worked well in the past when other bars have failed compliance checks.

“My take would be to go on the lenient side,” Charles said.

Committee member Mark Hahn agreed, saying he had no problem going with a lighter penalty.

Committee member Jeffrey Monfort acknowledged Ganz’s honesty and sincerity. Monfort also favored leniency.

On Sept. 27, 2017, the Columbia County Dispatch Center received a call in which a person anonymously reported that an underage person had used an altered identification card to purchase alcohol at The Ball Room, Manthey said.

Ganz told the committee Monday that one of his bartenders had checked the identification card but didn’t realize it had been altered.

He said all his bartenders are required to check identification cards, and he doesn’t believe his business is a repeat offender of city ordinances.

Manthey said The Ball Room failed a compliance check on Nov. 17, 2018, conducted by Prevention and Response Columbia County.

Ganz said when his business has live music or other events scheduled, his security staff first works to check identification cards and then focuses on securing the venue.

When authorities arrived to conduct a compliance check, Ganz said his security staff was immediately focused on keeping customers safe and must have slipped up on checking that specific ID.

“I take full responsibility,” Ganz told the committee Monday, promising corrective action.

Although the committee favored a lighter penalty, Charles said they had no choice but to enforce some length of suspension.

“We take alcohol licensing pretty seriously,” Charles said.