NEW: WEST THREATENS TO SUE CITY
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
The city of Freeman and members of the Freeman City Council last week were threatened with a lawsuit by Lawrence West, owner of The Whiskey House, a new restaurant opening in Freeman. West appeared before the council at its Oct. 19 meeting and said he would sue the city for failing to address his application for a liquor permit.
“By the council not pushing my application through, you guys are legally hindering me as a business owner to do what is within my legal South Dakota right to move forward,” he said. “If, as a council, it’s not going to be addressed, that’s fine; it doesn’t matter to me either way. But tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., I’m going to open an active lawsuit against the city of Freeman and all its entities that have to do with that liquor license.”
While the municipality of Freeman can grant an unlimited number of malt beverage licenses, the number of liquor permits is capped at four. All are accounted for, including one held by Amy Beck, who had operated the now-closed Mimi’s Diner.
West has since purchased that property to use as part of The Whiskey House.
“We were told that you guys have a standing agreement with the indivudal who held the license,” West said, “which has no bearing on South Dakota Codified Law regarding liquor licenses.
“As long as they don’t have a legal standing establishment in the state of South Dakota to sell and house liquor, they don’t have a liquor license,” he continued.
Mayor Michael Walter told West that West had previously been instructed to have his attorney talk to the city attorney, which West said had happened.
“We have not heard back from our attorney, which I find really odd, because I get about six emails a day from him,” Walter told West. “When I hear back from him and get his advice, we will know what to do.”
But West persisted.
“If the council isn’t going to push my application through or put it in the newspaper and follow the proper channels, you are knowingly hindering me from doing what I’m able to do as a business owner,” he said. “All we’re trying to do is acclimate into the community and open an establishment people can use.
“I’ve pushed your hand three or four times and I don’t want to continue to do that,” he said. “I’m looking for a peaceful resolution.”
Walter responded: “You’re not an attorney, nor am I. We’re going to let the attorneys fight this out.”
“I’ll see you guys with a court injunction in the morning,” West said.
Freeman City Finance Office Doug Uecker told The Courier Wednesday morning, Oct. 27 that no action had been taken.
“We have not heard from their attorney,” he said.