Bar fight more trouble for Beaver Dam tavern

January 5, 2019

Johnny’s Lounge, already facing a potential liquor license suspension, received 300 more demerit points from the Beaver Dam Police Department after a fight involving an alleged underage drinker.

The city’s demerit system keeps track of alleged violations at bars, such as serving alcohol to minors, following police investigations. If a bar receives more than 200 points in a rolling 18-month period, a process begins through the Common Council’s administrative committee that could lead to a bar losing its liquor license.

In the latest incident, police assessed Johnny’s 150 points for somebody underage being on the premises and 150 points because the incident resulted in an injury.

According to a police complaint, there was a fight at the bar, 519 Madison St., in the early hours of Dec. 26. A man who has worked for Johnny’s called police to notify them of the fight.

An officer responded to the scene and was conducting a traffic stop with a witness who was driving away when he learned that the woman injured in the fight was in the emergency room and being treated for injuries. The officer made contact with the woman, who was not underage, and saw there was a laceration on the right side of her face down to the bone that needed stitches.

The woman in the hospital, who is white, said that two other women across the bar, who are Latina and whom she did not know, appeared to be talking about her so she confronted them and began to argue with them.

The argument escalated and one of the women from across the bar threw a beer bottle at the victim and hit her in the head with a beer glass, she said. Multiple people jumped in to stop the fight, witnesses said. The officer was able to identify who the two women across the bar were, learning they were sisters, and went to their home. He noticed in police records that the woman who allegedly threw the beer bottle was 20 and could not legally consume alcohol in Wisconsin.

The older of the two sisters answered the door. She said her younger sister and the woman in the hospital got into an argument, which caused the younger sister to throw something. The older sister said she did not know how old her younger sister was, but that they were able to get in and buy alcohol, so that must mean she is 21.

However, the younger sister later came to the police department and admitted to drinking at Johnny’s underage. She said no one checked her ID.

The 20-year-old woman said the injured woman made fighting gestures and used a racist slur towards her, which angered her, leading to the bottle being thrown. She said she did not remember how the argument actually started.

The 20-year-old woman said that if she had been carded, she would have left Johnny’s and that she did not have a fake ID. The bartender said he checked the ID of everyone on the night of the incident if he did not already see them carded by another employee. He also said he saw the argument begin but not the actual fight.

Johnny’s provided police with video of the incident that showed the two sisters and the injured woman arguing back and forth across the bar and making hand gestures at each other. The video shows the injured woman try to charge to the other side before a man restrained her as the argument continued.

The officer said in the complaint that the video showed the 20-year-old throwing the bottle, the injured woman charging toward her, and the 20-year-old using the beer glass as a weapon. According to the complaint, the video does not show anybody checking IDs.

The 20-year-old was cited for underage drinking. The officer referred charges for battery and disorderly conduct, but she has not yet been charged. The officer requested charges of disorderly conduct for the injured woman, but she has not yet been charged with anything. (District attorneys are not bound to grant all charging requests from law enforcement.) The older sister was cited for disorderly conduct.

Johnny’s Lounge is already in the middle of the demerit process over two other incidents, one where a woman served her boyfriend while he was under a no-alcohol order, and another fight. The bar participated in a court-style hearing over the two incidents and the administrative committee recommended suspending the bar’s license for 15 days.

On Monday, the Beaver Dam Common Council is expected to ask for an objection from Johnny’s Lounge, owned by Amanda Hammen, in writing or in person on Jan. 21. Following the potential objection, the council will decide what action to take on the committee’s recommendation, if any.

Hammen’s lawyer, Brent Eisberner, has signaled he is prepared to challenge the legality and constitutionality of the city’s demerit system. Attempts to reach Hammen were unsuccessful Friday.

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