Concealed convictions attributed to ignorance and youthful indiscretion doomed a liquor license request of a yet-to-open ax-throwing business in the Haymarket on Tuesday.
The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission denied Tomahawks a beer-only, on-sale license, even after granting similar liquor licenses to ax-throwing lanes elsewhere in Lincoln and Omaha.
"I don't see how you're prepared," Chairman Bruce Bailey of Lincoln told owners Shad and Shane Kearns.
They misrepresented their operating expenses in documents provided to the commission, hadn't opened and hadn't completed some of the training, Bailey said.
But a key in his decision, the chairman said, was the Lincoln City Council's recommendation in December to deny the license.
The Kearns brothers had failed to report past criminal convictions, which, no matter how minor, must be disclosed on a state application form for a liquor license.
Shad Kearns, who was to manage the operation, did not report eight criminal convictions, including several speeding tickets, no valid registration and possessing an open alcohol container in a vehicle.
At Tuesday's hearing, he was questioned about his failure to disclose two other alcohol-related offenses, where he was kicked out of bars in Lincoln and Valentine.
Shane Kearns did not report several speeding tickets and several open alcohol container violations, based on the police report to the council. But convictions for drunk driving and boating under the influence were cited as concerns by the commission.
Like they told council members in December, the Kearnses chalked up these convictions to bad decisions in college.
They tried to reassure the commissioners Tuesday that safety would be their first priority and their investment in the business could be seen as their investment in Tomahawks' success.
"We have all our assets tied into this business," Shad Kearns told the commission.
Beer service was seen as a key in the viability of their business, which has $5,000 monthly rent payments, he said.
They want to match their competitor, Craft Axe Throwing, which allows beer at the establishment at 1821 N St.
In December, City Council members approved Craft Axe Throwing's license with rules limiting people to two beers before they throw axes, shutting down the ax-throwing at midnight, barring alcohol consumption in the throwing lanes and banning visibly intoxicated customers from holding an ax.
Tomahawks would be willing to agree to those conditions and any probationary period the commission thought appropriate.
After being publicized on Facebook, the opening of Tomahawks, 815 O St., has been delayed several times.
The commission noted Craft Axe Throwing opened in December, prior to the start of its beer sales, so it could demonstrate how the business operates.
Tomahawks hasn't hired a staff, the owners said.
Ultimately, the commission unanimously denied the request.
Bailey and the commission's executive director, Hobert Rupe, told the Kearnses they can reapply and encouraged them to have a lawyer help them with their application if they do so.
The Kearns brothers and their attorney declined to comment on their next step after Tuesday's hearing.