MacCraiger said his infractions were minor and that council “kicked me when I was down,” because he is fighting cancer, and that the denial will ultimately hurt his business.
After discussion, a presentation by MacCraiger and testimony from a handful of his customers, council voted unanimously to deny the liquor license renewal, agreeing with city staff recommendations.
In a report to council, city staff noted several instances where MacCraiger broke “both city and state law” by being late in filing his annual report to the Secretary of State, had his water cut off once and was late on utility bills, rented out a basement area for lodging that was designated as storage, and violated fire codes.
MacCraiger has since worked out a payment plan for his utility bills, staff reported, and is now current with his state filing.
MacCraiger said it will take about $2,000 to get the basement area up to fire code, but said he missed the state filing deadlines and was late on his bills because he was undergoing treatment for colon cancer this spring.
“When I should have been doing all that stuff, I was getting daily radiation,” he said.
A copy of the staff report was given to MacCraiger before the meeting, but he said when he spoke to council he felt their minds were made up ahead of time.
“It seemed like they had already decided what they wanted to do before the meeting started,” he said.
MacCraiger claimed part of the problem was that he doesn’t know some of the councilmembers, particularly “a couple of people who were the nastiest,” and that council “seemed to like to get little tiny things and tried to make it into something.”
Councilmember Betty Wolfe indicated the fire code and lodging infractions were serious.
“I question your character,” she said. “The improper source of heat could have led to someone’s death… someone was actually put in harm’s way.”
MacCraiger responded that “harm’s way” was an exaggeration, that the heater was not connected and there were no exposed wires.
Councilmember Sandy Stuller was not moved by MacCraiger’s explanations, and moved to deny the liquor license request.
MacCraiger said he had never seen some of the documents from the building inspector regarding the basement room, and the infractions only came to light after an argument with a former tenant who he said turned him in to get revenge.
Not having a liquor license will hurt business, MacCraiger said, because he won’t be able to serve wine with meals and won’t have the money to pay musicians he hires as many as five nights a week during the summer.
“We paid musicians with a percentage of the bar, so that will affect the local music scene,” he said.
The Silver Nugget is primarily a restaurant, serving three meals a day, with three hotel rooms upstairs, MacCraiger said, so although alcohol isn’t the mainstay of his business, it’s still important.
“Overall, it’s not the world’s busiest bar and it isn’t like the whole business is destroyed,” he said. “But if people don’t come because they can’t get a glass of wine, I lose sales and won’t be able to accommodate customers as much as they’d like.”
No one on council knew how long MacCraiger would have to wait to apply again for a liquor license, but after the meeting he said he planned to start over with the process and would contact city staff.
City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Elmont said she had a call in to the state liquor board to find out the particulars of what happens after a liquor license is denied, but had not heard back from them yet.