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ABO Suspends St. Roch, Restricts Live Music

St. Roch Tavern’s reputation as a late-night live music venue received a fundamental revision today in the City Council Chambers. The Alcohol Beverage Control Board took on the bar for violations that dealt with noise, loitering, and trash pickup. Under the deal reached at the hearing, St. Roch will be suspended from operating from April 6-April 20, live music will be heavily restricted, and the bar must close by 2:30am every night.


Dozens of patrons, employees, and musicians, including Meschiya Lake, appeared to speak on behalf of St. Roch.


City Attorneys Dan McNamara and Nolan Lambert were the prosecution for the case. Defendant Rob Waguespack owns Solarium entertainment, the LLC that holds St. Roch in its umbrella. Solarium is an “amusement machine” company, with jukeboxes, video poker machines, pool tables, and other such devices in bars all over the city. John Victorson is the manager of the property, and Waguespack said Victorson is the effective owner and keeps the majority of the profits from St. Roch Tavern’s sales. However, Waguespack keeps all the profits from the bar’s video poker machines and other entertainment. The Solarium owner said that he checks on the bar about twice a week, primarily during the day.


Terms of a consent agreement Waguespack signed on July 19, 2011 dealt with loitering, noise regulation, trash pickup, and underage drinking. The underage drinking charges were enumerated by Lambert, but no complainants specifically cited such concerns. Today, Waguespack told the ABO he was “under duress” when he signed the original agreement.


Waguespack said he was days away from a hearing before the city attorney presented him with the papers in July of 2011, and he was “under a lot of pressure,” when he signed. “I would have had to get a lawyer in three or four days,” said the defendant. “I thought I had a working relationship with the city attorney.”


The first consent document stated that noise within the bar could not be audible within 50 feet of the establishment, and city attorneys cited a sound violation. The ABO also demanded that St. Roch serve to-go cups with the bar’s name on them, another regulation with which Waguespack failed to comply. According to the owner, the only cups they could that fit the regulations were made with a thick plastic, similar to a Mardi Gras cup, which cost 38 cents a piece.


The bar was asked to give neighbors an accessible way to voice their concerns by posting a number to call on the bar’s window. According to Waguespack, Victorson implemented said orders immediately after St. Roch reached the consent agreement with the ABO, and received three calls within that one-and-a-half-year time span.


However, some nearby residents had a bone to pick with the noise at St. Roch. Ann Linn, who lives two doors down and across the street from the bar, said in her testimony that she could “absolutely” hear noise emanating from the bar over 50 ft. from the entrance. Linn said the noise was disruptive and kept her awake “consistently on Saturday and on Tuesday.”


Linn’s Tuesday night problems stem not from live music but from fowl play. Until today’s hearing, Tuesday nights were the bar’s weekly “chicken drop.” The game involves live chickens being placed on a mat of sorts, broken up into squares. Patrons make bets among each other about where the birds will defecate or “drop.” According to Linn, the excitement of the Tuesday chicken drop caused a lot of noise to emanate from the bar.


Linn wasn’t the only named complainant in today’s discussion. A man named Scott Heron, Linn’s neighbor, has also been vocal with management and the City about noise levels at the Tavern. Bartender Martha Wood referred to Heron as “the culprit” in a comment on a post she made about St. Roch’s liquor license being in jeopardy. Another Facebook commentator replied by saying someone needed to “find some dirt on the city attorney,” with “ha ha,” at the end of his post. Lambert claimed that the comment was suggestive of blackmail, to an uproar of laughter from those seated in the chambers. A man named Thomas Schwabb also provided the ABO with a notarized affidavit complaining about St. Roch’s nuisance violations.


A deal was reached before St. Roch defenders, many seated for the entire hearing, could go on record with their public testimony.


A new agreement was reached today, after City Attorneys, the ABO, and St. Roch’s legal team struck a deal. The terms of the new agreement dictate that all live music on Friday and Saturday must cease by 1:30am, and at 11:30pm on Sundays through Thursdays. The bar must close by 2:30am every night, and no to-go cups are to be served at the bar. Lambert was clear to emphasize that no drinks can legally leave the bar’s premises under the new agreement. No DJ’s may perform on Sunday through Thursday within the new terms.


 St. Roch is suspended from operating from April 6 through April 20. Waguespack was fined $10,000 for his infractions, which must be paid within 30 days. All live animals, including dogs, are banned from the premises, and Waguespack must hire a sound engineer to soundproof the building by September 19, 2013.


All existing terms from the agreement signed in July of 2011 still stand. If the new consent order and the previous one conflict in any way, the new one takes legal precedence. Concerned that today's agreement would negatively affect witnesses, McNamara included a provision, agreed to by St. Roch's legal team.


"There will be no disparaging of witnesses in this matter on any electronic medium associated with St. Roch Tavern or any of its employees, and if they were to so disparage any witness, they would be in violation of the terms of the consent judgment," said McNamara.


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