Wolf in doghouse yet again | AspenTimes.com

Wolf in doghouse yet again

John Colson

The Howling Wolf nightclub has run afoul of Aspen’s police and liquor licensing officials once again, this time before it has even officially begun business in its new location.

The Wolf’s management is facing charges in municipal court of running a bar without a valid liquor license, stemming from the club’s opening party on April 17.

The Wolf has moved from its original location, in the 300 block of East Hopkins Avenue. It is due to reopen soon in the basement location formerly occupied by the Flying Dog Brew Pub, at the intersection of Galena Street and Cooper Avenue.

The Wolf’s owners, under the name of Aspen Madmen, Inc., signed a lease for the old Flying Dog space on April 16, the day before the opening party.

At that party, according to a police report, Howling Wolf manager Paul Levine told two cops on foot patrol that the management had “an arrangement with Kathryn Koch, the city clerk, that allowed them to operate under the Flying Dog’s liquor license,” according to a police report on the incident.

The police showed up at the party after Officers Jim Crowley and Brian Heeney, while on foot patrol, saw people milling around in the old Flying Dog, which the cops believed was closed. Crowley’s report indicates the two officers saw people drinking, and were told by a bar patron that the liquor stocks from the Howling Wolf had been brought over to the new location for the party.

Manager Levine, according to the report, indicated that patrons were being served Flying Dog beer, which will continue to be brewed on the premises under the new lease arrangement.

In addition, one of the bar’s co-owners, Robert Murdock, said this week that there was a “verbal agreement” with the owner of the Flying Dog Brew Pub, George Stranahan (a part-owner of The Aspen Times), to hold the opening night party under the auspices of the Flying Dog’s liquor license. Stranahan this week confirmed that “I remember that, yeah.”

But David Reitz, director of the Colorado Liquor Code Enforcement Division, said it is not clear whether Stranahan had the legal right to make such an agreement with the owners of the Howling Wolf.

Referring to the new lease agreement signed by the Howling Wolf, Reitz said of the Flying Dog’s legal standing, “If they’ve lost control of the premises, I’m not sure they had the authority” to allow the Wolf to hold a party using the Dog’s license.

The Aspen Liquor Licensing Authority met Tuesday to consider the Howling Wolf’s application for a temporary liquor license while the application for the transfer of the Flying Dog’s license to the Howling Wolf is pending.

But the more important consideration, said liquor board member Gary Esary, is the pending court case. He said the board should hold off on the license transfer application until the case has been decided, and endorsed the idea of a temporary license in the meantime.

The liquor board unanimously granted the temporary license, over the written objections of neighboring businesswoman Terry Butler, owner of the Residence Hotel on the Hyman Avenue Mall.

“I think there are too many night clubs, restaurants and bars in the downtown area already,” Butler declared in a letter to the liquor board. She said she is “sternly against the Howling Wolf moving in next door.”

The liquor board directed the Wolf’s management to come back for the hearing on the permanent license after the court matter is resolved.

City Attorney Dave Hoefer declined to discuss the pending case. But he said a hearing initially scheduled for this morning was continued to a date three weeks from now, after he met with the Howling Wolf’s attorney, Charles Fagan, to begin “settlement negotiations.”

He said the Wolf’s management could go for a “plea bargain” or opt for a trial before a judge or a jury, depending on the outcome of the negotiations.

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