It looks like Heidelberg’s Sports Bar soon may be on the road to getting its liquor license back, following a Nebraska Supreme Court decision Friday.
It all came down to an interpretation of the state Liquor Control Commission’s “disturbance rule,” which says a liquor license can be canceled when a license holder allows an unreasonable disturbance "to continue without taking the steps" set forth in the rule.
In December 2017, the commission relied on it in yanking owner John McManus’ license based on a fight that rippled through a crowd and led to all available officers being called to the bar near 33rd and Superior streets after a boxing card featuring Terence "Bud" Crawford at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
That night, police had warned McManus that two other bars opted against hosting the after-party when police raised safety concerns with them. But McManus decided to hold the party anyway.
Based on that choice, the commission said they had lost confidence in his ability to run Heidelberg’s.
And when McManus asked a Lincoln judge to review the decision, he affirmed it, finding that McManus had violated the disturbance rule by disregarding security concerns police had come to him with.
But on Friday, the Supreme Court reversed District Judge Andrew Jacobsen.
In the opinion, Justice William B. Cassel wrote that the commission and district court both had ignored two words: “to continue.”
“Although we must reverse this license cancellation, we emphasize that our decision does not preclude the commission from adopting a rule that would impose upon licensees a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent disturbances from occurring in the first place. But its existing rule does not do so, and we are required to apply the rule as written,” Cassel said.
Under the plain meaning of the rule, he said, McManus didn’t have to take reasonable action to terminate the disturbance until 1:55 a.m.
Heidelberg's was allowed to continue operating while it appealed the commission's liquor license decision.