WEST ALLIS — The owner of Bunty's Liquor store is suing West Allis to get his liquor license back after the common council revoked it due to 150 cases of stolen liquor being found in the store's basement, investigators said.
However, attorney Jacob Manian said, "My client did not sell any of the liquor."
Manian blamed the situation on the two Greenfield men and one West Allis man who are charged in the thefts of whole pallets of liquor from the New Berlin warehouse where they worked. Only some of it is believed to have gone to Bunty's.
The men told his client that the liquor was from a liquor store that closed and it was available at a discount rate for cash, Manian said. The invoices were promised several times but not delivered, he said. Those promises came from the man who was his client's regular liquor delivery man, so he trusted him, Manian said.
However, the city's position is that the owner should have known the liquor was stolen.
He didn't have invoices, yet he made three or four large purchases at a price that was significantly lower than normal, said Nick Cerwin, assistant city attorney. The liquor also was delivered at times different than his normal lawful deliveries, Cerwin said. In addition, the liquor was stored in a separate room behind a fake cardboard wall that blocked any view of it, he said.
The city's license and health committee held a hearing with testimony, cross-examinations, evidence and exhibits and recommended a 45-day suspension. That was far less severe than the revocation that the city attorney's office had recommended.
But when the matter reached the full common council, aldermen voted 5-4 to revoke Bunty's liquor license.
Manian called that decision harsh.
"My client has been an upstanding business owner since 2008," he said. "Never even once has he been subjected to any discipline.
"He feels terrible," about the situation.
He asked for a temporary restraining order so that Bunty's could reopen. However, that was denied in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
Attorneys for both sides will be in court Friday, May 19, but nothing substantive is expected to happen.
The liquor came from General Beverage Sales Co., 16255 W. Stratton Drive, New Berlin. The thefts are believed to have taken place in a roughly eight-month period from Nov. 26, 2015, to Aug. 5, 2016, according to the criminal complaint against the three men. The complaint is filed in Waukesha County Circuit Court.
Preliminary hearings will be Tuesday, May 16, for Joshua Dempsey, 25, recently of Greenfield, and Earl Roberts, 32, of Cold Spring Road in Greenfield. A preliminary hearing will be June 15 for James Stadney, 47, of Lapham Street, West Allis.