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Wausau liquor license battle not over after bar is gone

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WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) - A court battle over a revoked liquor license continues, even though the former license holder no longer has a bar to use it.

It was announced this week that a new Kwik Trip store will be built at the site of the former IC Willies nightclub. Tom and Susie Nowell lost their liquor license in June of 2010 after neighborhood noise complaints and a unanimous city council vote. The case went to court, where Judge Greg Grau ruled in favor of the city. The Nowell’s appealed, and the Appellate Court sent it back to the Circuit Court.

City Attorney Ann Jacobson says the issue comes down to what kind of hearing the Nowell’s are entitled to. “The question on appeal was if the circuit court under chapter 125 bound to a restrictive review or are they to provide basicly a Trial De Novo or a whole new review at the circuit court level. That’s really what the argument is about.”

Jacobsen says if the city loses, The Nowell’s could be re-issued a license... but there’s a catch. “If it were found that we improperly denied renewal of his liquor license, the curious thing would be (that) we’d be forced to produce a liquor license to give to him. He’s back in South Dakota, and our ordinances would not allow him nor the state statutes allow him to have a liquor license without a premises.”

Ryan Lister is the attorney representing IC Willies. He says his client has two options should he eventually win his case. “He will have two options. He can go for a different site, or he can go after monitary damages against the city.”

Lister says he has consulted with a civil rights attorney in Madison, and the attorneys and clients have not decided if they would find a new location to reopen IC Willies or if they would seek financial damages from the City of Wausau.

The two sides must file briefs to the Wisconsin Supreme Court by February 25th, and after that, the high court will decide if it will accept the case.

The Kent Street property that was home to IC Willies was acquired by the bank through foreclosure and has been sold to Kwik Trip.

Area residents are already expressing concerns about the possible noise from a neighboring convenience store, too.

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