What’s Wrong With This Picture?
It’s Monsoon season. You can tell by the billowing towering-cumulus-nimbus clouds.
This is the southeast corner of Wyoming and Menaul Boulevards where a zoning battle is about to come to a head over the transfer of a liquor license, the reestablishment of an adult entertainment bar and a Wal-Mart.
However, that is not the storm that’s brewing; this is the facade of the Chapter II Show Club, a nude bar that went out of business a couple of years ago.
Some businessmen, including the son, Paul Bronstein, the owner of the local Village Inn restaurant chain in town, want to transfer a liquor license from an Estancia bar and apply it to the same location as the Chapter II. A Village Inn is right next-door.
According to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission website, http://www.nmprc.state.nm.us/, JPB Holding LLC and Bronstein LLC are registered at the same Southwest Albuquerque address. JPB Holding is doing business as All Fours; the name of the new club.
The area bordered by Wyoming on the west, Menaul on the north, Lester St. on the east and Northeastern Blvd. to the south was known as the Wyoming mall. The southern end is now being demolished, in part to make way for a Wal-Mart Supercenter.
So what’s wrong with this picture?
There seems to be some high level hypocrisy going on.
Despite it’s proximity to the Village Inn restaurant, I worked that area for a couple of years and never had a major incident related to the Chapter II; I can’t say that about a number of other bars in the immediate area.
Some local residents, including the Inez Neighborhood Association, opposed the building of the Wal-Mart. They appealed the Environmental Planning Commission’s acceptance of the hearing officer’s approval of a site development plan for subdivision and building permits all the way to the council.
At the Sept. 19, 2005, City Council meeting, the appeal failed on a 4-4 vote because a tie is not a majority to overturn the EPC. City Councillors: Miguel Gómez, Debbie O'Malley, Eric Griego and Martin Heinrich voted to grant the appeal, while Brad Winter, Michael Cadigan, Craig Loy and Tina Cummins, voted against and Sally Mayer was absent. The location is in Mayer’s district. She is a real estate agent and had spoken in favor of Wal-Mart prior to the council meeting.
Now the liquor license has been making its way through the approval process and has hit a number of points of resistance that can only be described as political hurdles.
Albuquerque Tribune reporter Michael Gisick, Tuesday, July 23, 2007, wrote that the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department gave tentative approval for the sale and transfer of the Estancia license in February of this year and sent the matter to the City’s hearing officer who, after two hearings in April, also approved the license and sent the matter back to the State.
“Northeast Heights residents unhappy with plan for new strip club” http://www.abqtrib.com/news/2007/jul/23/northeast-heights-residents-unhappy-plan-new-strip/
In the past, the practice has been for the hearing officer’s findings to be automatically forwarded back to the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department without council action. The state approval is supposed to be automatic.
In this case apparently, the state started dragging its feet and the business interest filed a case in the Bernalillo County District Court to force the state to take final action on the transfer.
Journal Staff Writer Dan McKay wrote on July 31, 2007, that according to a spokesman for the Regulation and Licensing Department, Bob Hagan, the state took the position, for the first time, that they cannot grant final approval without city council action.
Bernalillo County District Judge Ted Baca tentatively upheld the department’s determination after Assistant Attorney General Francine Chavez argued that, at the least, the council president had to sign off on the hearing officer’s findings. The judge gave attorneys involved in the case 10 days to file additional paperwork, in an effort to resolve the issue, “Adult Business Wants Liquor License Transfer” http://www.abqjournal.com/news/metro/582579metro07-31-07.htm.
Mayer is calling for a new full public hearing, going back to the beginning, though there was no appeal from any opponent through the EPC or to the council. http://daystar2.cabq.gov:81/detailreport/Reports/Temp/85200733323.pdf
The history of the council has been to routinely allow the forwarding of such liquor license questions to the state without any action.
Of course a District Judge can set a new policy. Baca has not quite done that yet. The issue could be resolved as simply as Council President O’Malley, right, perfunctorily signing off on the hearing officer’s findings. Don’t believe that it might be that simple.
What is clear is that if O’Malley does not immediately rule Mayer’s resolution out of order, then the rules establishing a procedure for opponents to appeal the decision they dislike, in this case, for whatever reason, are thrown out the window. The business interests are denied their due process, in spite of the fact that they have followed the rules and have now run into quickly constructed political brick walls.
The weather forecast for tonight’s council meeting, with 85 items on the agenda, is stormy, marked by thunder and lightening that will spin moral compasses, and there will be plenty of wind.