On Jan. 30, the first night Arandas Tequila Bar and Grill opened on the second floor of Bellavia Restaurant at 9022 31st St. in Brookfield, someone called the cops.
Brookfield police received a report of a “large fight” in the bar at about 2:50 a.m., about 20 minutes after closing time. When officers got there – police from LaGrange Park and Riverside also responded to the scene – things had apparently quieted down and officers were told that the fight was actually a small affair between a man and a woman who had already left.
Remaining inside, however, were about 50 people, “most holding alcoholic beverages,” according to the report, which went on to mention that buckets of beer were still being passed out by waitresses despite the bar’s 2:30 a.m. license.
Police issued the bar a citation for serving alcohol after hours and the village’s adjudicator doled out a $100 fine on Feb. 10. A hearing in front of the village’s liquor commissioner, Village President Michael Garvey, is pending.
On Feb. 13, police were back. Twice. The first call, at about 1:50 a.m., came from a cab driver who reported a man and woman arguing in the parking lot. The man, reportedly drunk, refused to get into the cab even though it had been called for him.
At 2:30 a.m., someone called police about another possible fight. Police arrived to find a large group of people arguing in the parking lot.
An ad for the Feb. 12-13 event at the bar, shown on the bar’s Facebook page, touts a “Huge Tripple B-Day Bash,” featuring drink specials, including $4 shots of house tequila, $3 patron shots and music spun by DJ “Boogie Down” Benny.
While disturbance calls at local taverns aren’t all that rare, what makes the calls to Arandas notable is that the bar doesn’t have a liquor license. Or a business license. Although it appears to any outsider that it is a separate operation – with separate hours, menu and clientele – that’s not the case, says Marie Krisch, owner of Bellavia Restaurant.
While the police report from Jan. 30 identifies someone named Rafael Guzman as the “bar manager,” Krisch said Guzman is an employee to whom she pays a salary. She hired him, she says, about a month ago.
“It’s definitely part of my business,” said Krisch. “They are two different venues. It seems like in the past few years I was not getting the same clientele. I decided this was a good idea.
“I’m trying to attract a crowd, and why not?”
Bellavia could use the business. In September 2010, Archer Bank filed a foreclosure lawsuit against Krisch. Court records show that on Jan. 11 a judgment of foreclosure was entered. On Feb. 9, the court noted that an order to vacate was set for a motion hearing.
Krisch declined to comment on the state of the foreclosure suit, saying only that she expects the matter to be resolved without her losing the property she purchased in 2008.
“I’d hate not to have it,” Krisch said of the second-floor venue. “For the first time in the last couple, three years I’m making money at the place.”
But village officials and police have expressed concern about Arandas and have consulted the village’s law firm to get clarification on whether it is part of Bellavia or a separate business. Attorney Tom Bastien of Storino, Ramello and Durkin, which serves as Brookfield’s legal counsel, said the upstairs bar appears to be part of the restaurant business downstairs.
“It’s one premises, one address,” Bastien told the Landmark last week. “The fact that there’s a different cuisine doesn’t trigger the need for a new license. They’ve expanded the menu to attract more people.”
But Village Manager Riccardo Ginex, in an e-mail to Garvey dated Feb. 1, the day after the opening-night police call to Arandas, expressed frustration with Bastien’s opinion.
“I’m just frustrated with Tom’s answer with this, and we really need to take a more aggressive stance with the bar owners when we have an incident like this. I do not want this coming back to haunt us.”
Police also expressed concern.
“When police arrived to the initial disturbance, they had a hard time even getting up there,” Lt. James Episcopo wrote in an e-mail to Ginex on Feb. 3. “The only way in or out is a narrow stairway near the front door of the restaurant. As people were trying to pile out, the police were trying to get in, and [it] sounded like it was a mess.”
Krisch said the initial violation regarding serving liquor after hours was a misunderstanding that has been resolved. She’s trying to make sure things don’t get rowdy in the future.
“When you have liquor, you have problems when you have parties up there,” she said. “We’re trying to get better at it.”