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Battle of the bar

New owner still hopes to get license and save Tam O'Shanter Pub from closing


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The latest round of Denise Stinson's fight to keep her pub open is, to say the least, dizzying.

The distance from Tam O'Shanter Pub, at 332 Garden of the Gods Road, to a newly opened charter school is about 500 feet, which is the minimum tavern-school separation permitted by law.

There are two ways that teenage students might pass the Tam O'Shanter en route to CIVA Charter High School. They can walk the west side of Northpark Drive on a convenient sidewalk, then boldly and illegally jaywalk onto school grounds. That distance is slightly more than 500 feet, total.

If students stay on Northpark's east side, they'll be walking on the side of the road, since there's no sidewalk. It's unsafe, but not illegal so that's the stretch that city officials have measured. And that happens to be 491 feet.

Officials have told Stinson she can hire her own surveyor if she wants to fight for the extra 9 feet. Otherwise, the ruling as it stands means Stinson cannot get a new tavern license.

"We can't violate laws," says Larry Lucero, one of the city's liquor code enforcement officers. "If there were a crosswalk at the school, she'd probably be all right."

Taking the bright view on the misfortunes that have faced Stinson since she bought the pub in January, the school's proximity is simply bad luck. Randy Zimmerman, CIVA's principal, says he and others at the school "feel terrible that [Stinson and her family] are in this predicament."

"We like the folks down there," he says, pointing out that Stinson catered an opening celebration at the school.

Warm sentiments alone might not help Stinson make ends meet as she nears two months with no liquor license. But the 51-year-old says community support is one reason she's applying again this time for a hotel/restaurant license that does not have any school-distance requirement.

"As long as they can live with me, I can live with me," says Stinson.

Stinson's ordeal started in July, when the liquor board considered her application to transfer the pub's liquor license to her name. A background check turned up two theft charges filed against Stinson nearly 25 years ago. Stinson did not list the charges on her application in a space for previous convictions, and she told the board she'd forgotten about them.

The charges had, after all, come from her estranged husband during divorce proceedings, and were dismissed. Some members, however, said she was "evasive" under questioning and listed that as a reason to turn down her application.

In August, the board decided not to reconsider, even after city attorney Scott Patlin told them the dropped charges amounted to "nothing."

For her new license, Stinson is required to complete a survey of residents and businesses within a half-mile of the pub to see if they want the business to have a liquor license.

Although some businesses hire professionals to get their surveys done, Stinson, who lives only blocks from the pub, says she'll be knocking on doors before she is scheduled to go back before the board Oct. 19.

"That's my neighborhood," she says. "No matter what the board does on the 19th, I feel like I've won."

Get involved

If you're interested in expressing support for Denise Stinson, you can attend a liquor board meeting. They generally start at 9 a.m. on the first and third Fridays of each month in City Council chambers, City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave. Call the city clerk's office at 385-5901 for more information. Agendas for upcoming meetings are posted on the Web at under "Agendas & Minutes."

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