Two Janesville men seek to open new tavern at former Quotes Bar & Grill site
JANESVILLE—A pair of Janesville residents seek to open a new tavern downtown at the site of the former Quotes Bar & Grill, which closed under pressure from city police.
The Janesville Alcohol License Advisory Committee on Tuesday recommended granting a Class B liquor license to Janesville residents Ilir Banushi and Arben Useni for Whiskey Ranch Bar and Grill at 24 N. Main St.
Quotes was shuttered at the site last year after owner Denise Carpenter relinquished her liquor license following a decade of problems with violence, fights and conflicts with police at the tavern.
Carpenter has since put the building up for sale for $775,000, according to Gazette reports.
The alcohol committee is recommending the city council grant a license for the new tavern as early as next week, despite initial misgivings by some committee members over a July robbery and shooting at 2 Brothers Pub and Grill, an Edgerton tavern Banushi runs.
The Edgerton Police Department reported a Cross Plains man and a Janesville man were injured in a shooting at the bar July 30 during what police said they believed was an armed robbery.
In an alcohol license review checklist submitted to the committee, city staff cited concerns that “an illegal, high-stakes card game” likely drew robbers to 2 Brothers the night of the shooting.
Committee members said the shooting and the specter of illegal gambling at 2 Brothers initially caused concern, but some committee members said their worries were eased after they visited one of several taverns that Banushi and Useni own and operate in Rock and Dane counties.
Committee member Barry Badertscher said he hung out in one of Banushi's bars last week as a “mouse in the corner” and found patrons' behavior and the atmosphere “favorable.”
Edgerton police have not released more information about their investigation of the shooting at 2 Brothers. The Gazette was not able to reach Edgerton Police Chief Tom Klubertanz on Tuesday for details on the shooting or its possible connection to gambling at the tavern.
Banushi and Useni told the committee Tuesday they no longer have card games at any of their taverns. Banushi and Useni told The Gazette they plan to lease or lease to own the former Quotes property from Carpenter.
They declined further comment on their plans for the new tavern or the incident at 2 Brothers, at least until the city council considers their license request.
On a city liquor license application, Banushi disclosed he had once gotten flagged for serving to an underage patron who gave a fake ID. He said the violation was later “dismissed.”
Janesville Deputy Police Chief Dan Davis, a member of the alcohol committee, said he initially had concerns about illegal gambling at 2 Brothers.
Davis said he had no further concerns about granting a license for the new tavern, but he warned Banushi and Useni about illegal gambling.
“The police department's tolerance for gambling will be low,” Davis said.
Police have said many calls for fights and altercations at Quotes happened late at night, including an October 2013 fight that left a woman's face lacerated after she got hit by shards from a bar glass a man had thrown across the room.
A 2005 fight between a bouncer and a patron left the patron in a coma and the bouncer charged with felony battery.
Police had chastised Carpenter for violence they said was a consistent drain on police resources. Before she ultimately closed Quotes, Carpenter twice faced liquor license suspension and revocation for violence at the bar.
Another committee member, Todd Kimball, wanted to tie some problems with fights and violence at the former Quotes to hip-hop and rap music, saying the “music changed” late at night.
Banushi and Useni told the committee they seek to run a bar and grill that would have rustic Americana décor and would target patrons who enjoy country-rock music.
Banushi and Useni promised the committee there would be no illegal gambling at their new tavern. And they hedged against Kimball's concerns over the type of music they'd play.
“We give you our word—no more cards,” Banushi said. “And no hip-hop and rap.”