Police arrested the owner of several Lincoln bars this week after they say he allowed after-hours drinking, then refused to cooperate with an officer's investigation.
In addition, one of the taverns owned by Bryan A. McFarland — a Watering Hole location that opened in the Haymarket in October — closed earlier this month without explanation, although that appears unrelated to this week's incident.
At about 3 a.m. Wednesday, a Lincoln police officer noticed a suspicious number of cars in the parking lot at Cliff's Martini Lounge on South 56th Street just north of Nebraska 2, and went to investigate.
Watching from outside, the officer saw McFarland, the owner, holding a beer can as three others sat and stood around the bar, police said in court documents.
The officer announced his presence and asked McFarland to open the locked front door and let him in, police said in court documents.
But McFarland instead began dumping alcohol bottles into the trash, court documents said.
McFarland went out the back door and became uncooperative with officers, who told him they needed to go inside because they were conducting a tavern investigation, the police report said.
They eventually handcuffed him, and an employee who had originally hid from officers opened the door and let police inside. They found glasses on the bar where McFarland was previously seen standing.
Police took McFarland to jail, and prosecutors charged him Wednesday with four misdemeanors: refusing to comply with a police order, drinking on duty, drinking after-hours at a licensed premise and refusing to allow an officer to conduct a tavern investigation.
A city ordinance bans bar owners, managers or employees from drinking while on duty and mandates they allow police officers inside to conduct tavern investigations.
The 49-year-old Lincoln man pleaded not guilty to the four misdemeanor charges.
He didn't respond to a request for comment. His company, Mo Chara, owns the three remaining Watering Hole locations in Lincoln as well as Cliff's.
The fourth Watering Hole, at 710 P St., previously had been an Irish pub called McFarland & Son’s, which opened in 2014. McFarland converted it to a Watering Hole last year, saying at the time that business there "wasn't as good" as his Watering Hole locations.
He said he wanted to test out a Watering Hole in the spot to see if it would do enough business to make it worth renewing the lease.
Thursday, a sign on the door apologized for any inconvenience and asked people to "please try our other locations."
McFarland's legal troubles could jeopardize his remaining bars.
His arrest will trigger a hearing before the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, which could suspend, revoke or cancel his license at Cliff's if the commissioners find him guilty of allowing alcohol consumption after hours.
Nebraska law prohibits drinking at bars between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
"Just because you own it doesn’t mean you can consume on it after hours,” Commission Executive Director Hobert Rupe said Thursday.
McFarland already has a pending second-degree assault charge in Lancaster County Court, according to court records.
In that case, police allege McFarland started a fight with a man at a downtown bar Nov. 5, punching him from behind and leaving him with a gash on the back of his head.
If convicted of the felony charge, McFarland would be unable to renew the liquor licenses at his remaining bars because state law prohibits felons from holding the licenses.