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Panel OKs license transfer for new venue in Billings Park

With no tangible reason to deny a liquor license change, Superior's License and Fees Committee heard concerns from councilors past and present before recommending a liquor license transfer from Prime Rate/Bayfront Inn to 3301 Belknap St., for a new entertainment venue.

When it opens adjacent to the Shack restaurant and liquor store, the Ugly Stick Saloon will offer dance music -- rhythm and blues, classic rock and country -- three to four nights a week.

However, councilors representing the district have already heard their share of concerns on the impact on the quiet Billings Park neighborhood.

Council President Mike Herrick, who represents a portion of Billings Park, asked the council to refer the matter to committee before making a decision.

"There's been some concerns in the area, especially with the history of cabaret licenses over in the north end of town of drawing people into the area that cause trouble ... drug action and so on and so forth," Herrick said. However, he said, one of the primary concerns is the ability to have loud music.

In addition to the liquor license, the company that will run the Ugly Stick Saloon has applied for a cabaret license.

The cabaret license allows them to have music, bands, said City Clerk Terri Kalan. She said the Shack currently has a cabaret license.

However, the Ugly Stick Saloon will be operated by Superior Entertainment Inc., which requires separate liquor and cabaret licenses. Brittany Oliver, sister of Shack owner Seth Oliver, is president of the company.

Former city councilor, Dennis Dalbec, said he's concerned about the operation running seven days a week with loud music spilling out into the neighborhood, disturbing residents.

"I guess I was actually surprised," Dalbec said of learning of the new establishment opening in the same building.

"I stopped in your new bar," Dalbec said to Seth Oliver, owner of the Shack, which re-opened last weekend after an extensive remodel. "It really is a nice place. I was surprised you would put this other bar on the other side ... when I heard this was going in, I was shocked."

Considering the surroundings, which includes three motels a trailer court, an apartment building and hundreds of residents, he said he was surprised Oliver would consider such a venue.

"I don't think that should be a concern with our operation," Seth Oliver said. Oliver said he's not willing to allow any operation in the building to jeopardize the Shack or adjacent liquor store, which will still account for the majority of the business operations in the building.

"We've got a lot invested," Oliver said.

And it's his sister, Brittany Oliver, who would run the Ugly Stick Saloon, something she did from North Carolina to New York before traveling to China to study Kung Fu, Seth Oliver said.

Dalbec said in his experience, working the North End at night as a Superior police officer, music was loud and intensified problems such as drug use and fights.

"I think it would be a grave injustice to the neighborhood if you put this bar in there," Dalbec said. "The bar you have now ... it's a great asset to the community."

Seth Oliver said right now, no one knows what the Ugly Stick Saloon will be like.

And he explained to the committee that he's confident in his sister's ability to run it.

"We wouldn't do anything like this if Brittany wasn't back (from China), Oliver said of his sister. He said the quality of the bar is really dependent on who's running it.

Brittany Oliver said she plans to be there every minute it's open to make sure problems don't erupt.

"I've got the most to lose of anyone in that area," Oliver told the committee. "I've invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate that, and from what I understand we had a really busy weekend and I'm not going to jeopardize that. Nor are we going to start repulsing our liquor store customers, who are the bread and butter of the operation."

Kalan reminded the committee there has to be a "very valid reason" for denying a liquor license application.

"If it becomes a problem, just like with any other license, it can be revoked," Kalan said.

Seth Oliver's response was immediate: "We'll shut it down before you will if it's a problem."

Brittany Oliver said the bar and restaurant will operate some similar hours, something that will make the Ugly Stick Saloon staff very contentious of the noise level, which won't be all bass and bumping like might be found in other night clubs.

"It's going to be a place where you can actually socialize," she told the committee. "You don't want to disrupt the restaurant next door."

Seth Oliver said he is the first one likely to hear a complaint if the Ugly Stick Saloon gets too loud, from his manager at the Shack.

After listening to people on all sides of the issue, the committee voted to recommend the license transfer approval.

The council considers the license Dec. 18.