Should city officials revoke the liquor license of a beleagured Apple Valley restaurant with a litany of serious police and fire infractions? Or do the restaurant owners deserve another chance to clean up their act?
That's the question facing a divided Apple Valley City Council tonight. Last month, the council voted 3-2 to renew the liquor license of Spoon Fusion Cuisine for one month until the city and restaurant owners could hammer out a agreement that would address the problems facing the troubled business.
That agreement is expected to come before the council today, for approval as part of a renewal of the restaurant's liquor license.
In a presentation before the council, Apple Valley Police Chief Jon Rechtzigel described the restaurant, located at 14871 Granada Ave., as a hotspot for police calls. Since the business opened in 2011, police have responded to eight incidents at the location, Rechtzigel said.
Last October, police broke up a "riot-type" fight between 20-30 people at the restaurant; one of them was brandishing a handgun, Rechtzigel said. A month earlier, officers also found security guards armed with guns drinking at the establishment. The guards had been hired by a third-party promotions company to police a nightclub event at the restaurant, but were not licensed by the state as protective agents, according to the police chief. Charges in that incident are pending, the chief added.
In May 2012, Spoon canceled a rap music concert after Apple Valley police discovered that known criminal gang members had organized the event.
Apple Valley Fire Chief Nealon Thompson says fire inspectors have also catalogued 27 fire-code violations at Spoon since its opening.
“What's been most disturbing is the nature of the calls; this is something we’ve never seen before," Rechtzigel said during the hearing. The restaurant, he noted, is close to the heart of downtown Apple Valley, near fast-food businesses frequented by local teenagers.
“I just don’t feel it’s appropriate to have that type of conduct taking place where kids could get hurt," said Rechtzigel, who recommended the council not renew the business' liquor license.
But Spoon's attorney, Michael Padden, argued at the hearing that the restaurant that Spoon's owners, Van Ngo and Kav Theng, have cooperated with police by shutting down the restaurant's nightclub business—the source of many of the police calls. The restaurant makes 70 percent of revenue on alcohol sales and wouldn't be able to stay open without its liquor license, Padden added.
“I would suggest that they made a mistake, and they need to learn from their mistake," Padden said in December. "I’m just hopeful that this council will throw them a bone at this point."
Apple Valley Mayor Mary Haman-Roland called the infractions "extraordinarily serious," but suggested the restaurant owners deserved another chance to change their business practices.
Other council members, however, weren't so forgiving.
"If something goes astray for the police and the fire, and there’s a casualty to a patron … then I’m going to have to live with that," said Councilor John Bergman, who was most outspoken in his opposition to a liquor license renewal.
"We're not downtown Chicago, we are not downtown Minneapolis, we are not the Warehouse District," Councilor Tom Goodwin said. "We are a suburb of Dakota County, and this stuff has to go. I don’t want to see anybody go out of business, but I think there has to be an understanding."
Check back with Apple Valley-Rosemount Patch for additional coverage of this ongoing news story.