Jade Summit case continued
Steamboat City Council struggles through 'hybrid' hearing
October 12, 2007
Steamboat Springs — After hearing four hours of testimony Thursday, city officials postponed their quasi-judicial case to determine the fate of Jade Summit’s Pirate’s Pub liquor license.
The Steamboat Springs City Council, acting as the city’s Liquor License Authority, will continue the second half of the hearing at 9 a.m. Nov. 8. Thursday’s four hours proved long enough only for the council to hear only one side of the case. Eventually, one council member had to go to work, and the lengthy hearing began to encroach on another scheduled meeting at 5 p.m.
Jade Summit owner Kevin Nerney was called before the council because of accusations he violated the state’s liquor codes of conduct. Nerney was arrested in February on a misdemeanor charge of unlawful sexual contact, but was later found not guilty by a jury of his peers in Routt County Court in August. Despite the resolution to the criminal case, city officials decided to proceed with an administrative hearing that could strip Nerney’s restaurant of its liquor license. The crime for which Nerney was found not guilty allegedly had occurred at his bar.
Collette Erickson, a private attorney and the city’s prosecutor, spent nearly 3 1/2 hours presenting testimony Thursday from seven people, including a police officer, the alleged victim and members of the alleged victim’s family.
Steamboat Springs attorney Kris Hammond, who is representing Nerney, did not have the opportunity to present any testimony Thursday.
City Attorney Dan Foote advised the council on legal matters that arose during the hearing. Questions of admissibility of evidence, standards and other issues were addressed before the hearing began.
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Erickson acknowledged that the hearing was “unusual” and a “hybrid” of a typical criminal hearing in that the council had limited legal experience.
While Hammond argued the hearing was punitive in nature, the city disagreed, saying the hearing was meant to determine whether Nerney had violated a state liquor law and whether to suspend or revoke his liquor license.
As 3:45 p.m. neared and attorneys realized the hearing was not going to move forward, several council members questioned the need to drag out the case. Hammond said he would not be able to present defense testimony, address a rebuttal and make closing statements in an hour. The city’s planning commission was scheduled to use the Centennial Hall hearing room at 5 p.m. Thursday.
“Why were we not informed this would take longer than four hours when we just heard that the criminal trial took two days?” Councilman Towny Anderson asked.
City Council President Susan Dellinger said it would be irresponsible to rush the remaining testimony.
“We need to make good decisions,” she said.
Thursday’s show cause hearing was only the second time the council has held such a hearing. The first show cause hearing was held for Mother’s Deli last year after the Ski Time Square bar refused to accept a plea offer from the city. Nerney refused to accept a plea offer in August, leading to Thursday’s hearing.
Under a two-year-old ordinance that gives the city increased authority to suspend or revoke liquor licenses, businesses that are cited for alcohol violations must appear before the City Council to defend themselves. The city typically offers a “plea deal” to those businesses. The deals usually involve a fine or suspension of the liquor license. Repeat offenders are subject to harsher penalties and suspensions, or, potentially, a revocation of their liquor licenses.