Urban Pioneer Group, which runs out of 7503 Madison St., was allowed to once again resume alcohol-related events at 5 p.m. on June 15 after a hearing before the liquor license commissioner that same day. The suspension of their license was issued on June 8 after raucous behavior related to an event at the space on June 6 as well as for the fight on May 9 that preceded the temporary but mandatory 11 p.m. closures of all bars in town and which is still in effect for A1 taverns.
At the June 15 hearing, Mayor Rory Hoskins, who serves as the liquor commissioner, said UPG owners Tom and Sheila Kunkel were charged with being in violation of the following ordinances: Fights and disturbances; excessive noise; and failure to prevent patrons from causing harm to neighboring businesses.
The Kunkels stipulated to the charges as presented at the hearing. A settlement was reached by their attorney, Nir Basse, and the village prosecutor Sharon O’Shea. In addition to accepting the charges, UPG will present a business plan to the village and will pay a fine to the village. As part of the business plan, said O’Shea, all UPG events will end at 11 p.m., even if longer hours are granted by the village, and the Kunkels will vet all parties and events held at the location.
The amount of the fine was disputed. O’Shea proposed a $2,000 payment that she didn’t want to reduce because, she said, the village was thinking of dismissing the six local ordinance tickets issued to UPG on May 9. Each of those tickets comes with a maximum $750 fine.
Basse, however, said he and the Kunkels were hoping for a reduced fine because a presentation they would make at the continuation of the hearing on June 23 would show the contributions the charitable arms of UPG make to the community.
The amount of the fine will be determined on June 23 at 3:30 p.m. when the meeting is continued and the written order officially entered.
Stipulating to the charges was significant, as previously Tom Kunkel denied UPG patron involvement in the May 9 incident, which was a precipitating factor in the emergency meeting held by the village council to put the 11 p.m. closing time in place village wide.
In that May 9 incident, according to police reports, UPG patrons were allegedly fighting on Madison Street, and police officers who tried to stop a man from choking a woman were allegedly harassed both verbally and physically. It took law enforcement units about half an hour to disperse the crowd that grew to around 50 people, refusing police orders to disperse.
Citations issued to the Kunkels that day include violations of preservation of peace, sufficient employees, and public fighting.
At that time, however, Tom Kunkel denied that UPG patrons were involved in the disturbance. In the days following the May 9 incident, he said that patrons from his event dispersed “peacefully” at 12:45 a.m., heading home or to other establishments. The fight started at approximately 1:30 a.m.
“The man choking his girlfriend was not a guest at our event,” Kunkel said at the time.
Surveillance video from another nearby establishment, however, contradicts Kunkel’s statement. The video, according to Deputy Police Chief Ken Gross, shows patrons exiting UPG at around 1:23 a.m., not 12:45 a.m. as Kunkel said.
The male subject arrested in the choking incident shortly after appears to be the same man on video exiting UPG while holding a female in a headlock, said Gross. Gross confirmed that people seen exiting UPG at 1:23 a.m. are also seen on police video of the fight that occurred.
The Review has reached out to Basse for a comment on the video and will publish it when received.