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Thirsty Sports Bar

Thirsty's Sports Bar at 317 S. 11th St. has been closed and will be replaced by Variations.

The Lincoln City Council recommended liquor license approval for the new owner of a downtown bar police busted in a drug investigation earlier this year.

Variations, owned and managed by David Fox, would occupy 317 S. 11th St., the previous home of Thirsty's, which closed earlier this year after its owner and an employee were arrested.

Prosecutors in May charged Thirsty's owner Jason Von Kaenel and another employee with felony drug-dealing offenses after police checked into a tip about drug dealing in the bar.

Over a three-month span, Lancaster County Sheriff's deputies working undercover witnessed several suspicious incidents where patrons and staff went upstairs or into a bathroom or closet and returned a short time later rubbing their noses.

Then investigators searched the bar in May and found a bag with suspected cocaine under the bar's freezer, according to court documents.

Von Kaenel's attorney said earlier this summer that his client had not known about the illegal activities in the bar, and when he found out, he fired the employees involved and banned the patrons involved from the bar.

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The bar's liquor license was terminated in August after Fox applied for the Variations license. 

A felony drug-dealing charge against Von Kaenel is pending in Lancaster County Court, and a preliminary hearing will be held later this month.

Variations will also seek city permission to offer keno.

Fox was a manager and bartender at The Night Before Lounge for 29 years.

He decided to buy and open Variations after an ownership change at The Night Before Lounge, he told council members.

His license request received unanimous support from the council.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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