Chandler bar may lose license over party The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler bar may lose license over party

Chandler bar may lose license over party
City News
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By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

A Chandler bar may not get its liquor license after the owners allegedly violated the governor’s “stay-at-home” order in March by hosting a large private party.

The owners of El Coyote Sports Bar on Arizona Avenue claim they were unaware of all the restrictions listed in Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order when they welcomed up to 30 patrons for a party on March 21.

The day before the party, Ducey ordered all gyms, movie theatres and bars to immediately close in one of his first executive orders intended to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

El Coyote owner Shawn Hoover said he didn’t know about the order and thought a party complied with the advisories in place at that time.

“It was an honest, clear misunderstanding,” Hoover said, “and we’d definitely like a second chance.”

But Chandler Police Chief Sean Duggan accused the bar’s owners of acting deceitfully and has recommended El Coyote not be given a new liquor license.

Duggan said one of his officers drove by the bar on March 21 and noticed people standing outside its entrance.   

The chief said the officer had trouble gaining entry because doors were locked and employees were blocking the entrance. Once inside, said the officer noticed a large group of guests sipping alcoholic drinks and was told by one bartender that they were aware of Ducey’s recent executive order, according to Duggan.

The owners then became “belligerent” and “antagonistic” toward the officer, Duggan added, and argued they were holding a private gathering that involved no monetary transactions.

At least three guests told police they had paid $20 to get in, the chief said.

A few days after the party, the state revoked a temporary liquor license issued to El Coyote in January and Duggan thinks it shouldn’t be reinstated.

Duggan took the rare stance of encouraging the Chandler City Council to not recommend El Coyote for a license by the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses.

Cities can support or oppose licenses the state plans to issue within its jurisdiction and Chandler Council will soon have to decide whether El Coyote’s closure violations warrant a denial.

The city has not denied a recommendation since 2007.

Duggan said he’s never recommended the denial of a liquor license in Chandler since assuming his position in 2014. He’s previously recommended denials while working for other agencies, but those cases almost always involved bars that had too many rowdy customers.

“That is not the case here,” Duggan said. “This is even more egregious because it was the actions of the owners that drew our attention.”     

The recommendation has put the council members the awkward position of either supporting Duggan or a local business that’s already been hurt by the pandemic.

If the state was to follow Duggan’s recommendation and not grant a liquor license, Hoover said he likely faces foreclosure on his site.

He said he and his business partner have invested $25,000 in renovating the bar since they bought it last November and were in the midst of rebranding El Coyote’s image.

Hoover said he’s had all bar employees undergo training on the state’s liquor laws and has tried to repair their relationship with Chandler Police, apologizing for their behavior on March 21.

“I made a mistake,” he said. “I just hope that I can at least redeem myself.”

Council members expressed multiple opinions on how they should advise the Department of Liquor Licenses to proceed.

Councilman Sam Huang favored granting El Coyote a second chance while Councilman Matt Orlando proposed taking a neutral stance and not recommending anything to the state.

After a lengthy discussion on April 23, the council voted to delay a final decision until its next regular meeting later this month.

Mayor Kevin Hartke and Huang voted not to postpone the council’s recommendation.

Councilman Mark Stewart said the city needs more time to figure out whether stipulations or requirements can be added to the council’s recommendation.

Local businesses are under much distress because of the pandemic, the councilman added, saying Chandler should be helping El Coyote find a path to move forward.

“We need to provide them options under the guise that this COVID thing is unique,” Stewart said.

Several residents submitted emails in support of El Coyote.

“Please keep El Coyote Bar open,” one Chandler resident wrote. “It is a small business, but one that feels safe and where I can enjoy myself without any problems.”

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