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Bar closed Easter weekend at Applebee's

Anyone who wants a beer with their dinner won't want to eat at Applebee's Easter weekend. The restaurant can not serve alcohol for the next five days as it serves a suspension for failing a compliance check in April of 2008.

In a 3-2 vote the Rosemount City Council decided to impose the five-day suspension and a $2,000 fine on the family restaurant for selling to a minor April 24, 2008. If the restaurant fails another check in the next 24 months it will have to serve an additional 16 day suspension.

The restaurant chose to serve its suspension immediately because Easter weekend is notoriously slow and it would have the least effect on servers and bartenders of the restaurant, said Applebee's attorney Kate Becker.

The Rosemount Applebee's has failed three compliance checks in the last four years. The two prior violations occurred in March of 2005 and July of 2007. However, between the July 2007 failed check and the April 2008 failure, Applebee's Restaurant North took ownership of the location.

Becker argued because of the change last year's violation should be treated as a first offense and not a third. Apple American Limited Partnership owned the store before.

The city usually imposes a $500 civil penalty for a first offense. For a third offense the city typically imposes a $1,500 civil penalty and 21 day license suspension with 10 days served and 11 stayed if there are no other violations within 24 months. Under state statute the city can fine up to $2,000 and impose a 60 day suspension for a first offense.

Since the offense occurred, the Rosemount Applebee's has implemented several policies to prevent a failed check in the future. Becker said every customer who orders an alcoholic beverage, whether 21 or 85, is carded. If the individual doesn't have identification then they are turned down.

Additionally, wait staff has to put a birth date in the computer. If there is no date accompanying the drink order then the bartender cannot make the drink.

Becker said the hard nosed approach has led to lost business at the restaurant but that they are dedicated to making sure a failed compliance check doesn't happen again.

Police chief Gary Kalstabakken recommended a $1,500 fine and 21 day suspension. While he appreciated the steps that Applebee's has taken since the offense occurred, he recommended the council impose a harsher penalty because, regardless of ownership, there have been repeated violations at that location.

Applebee's and the city presented their sides to an independent hearing officer who found ARN should be treated separately from the previous owner. However, the officer also found the city was within its rights to impose the staff recommended punishment and to consider the extenuating circumstances surrounding the issue.

The council struggled to come up with a punishment for the restaurant, wanting to send a clear message that compliance failures would not be tolerated but wanting to give some leniency for a "good community member."

Council member Mark DeBettignies was the first to recommend the council stick to a higher fine but reduce the length of the suspension. Several numbers were discussed but eventually the five-day suspension stuck. Council members Kim Shoe-Corrigan and Kurt Bills voted against the motion.

After the council's vote regional manager Randy Carmody said he was fine with the decision.

"We're disappointed but we understand the seriousness of it," he added.

Clinic project shrinks

In other business, the council approved an amendment to a planned unit development for the South Robert Commons that will let Kraus Anderson build a 12,000 sq. ft. building instead of 17,000 sq. ft. on the Genz Ryan property.

Kraus Anderson had planned a building that would house a Health East Clinic and other businesses. The bank that is financing the project refused to fund construction of the entire proposed building, so the company asked the council to amend the plans so it can just build the Health East clinic. Kraus Anderson will build the rest of the building when it finds tenants to occupy the space. Construction on the clinic will begin this spring and the Health East clinic hopes to open by October.