PINETOP-LAKESIDE—The Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control has served a “notice of violation” on the Lion’s Den Bar and Grill for “violating” Governor Ducey’s Executive Order number 2020-43 mandating a “pause” beginning June 29 in the operations of all bars holding a “series 6 or 7 liquor license.”

Lion's Den

The Lion’s Den in Pinetop-Lakeside.

Owners of the LLC that run the place, Jay and Diana Charnholm, are distressed and confused and seem to be getting nowhere with the tangle of bureaucracy that has crashed down on them, while other similarly situated establishments are untouched.

In an email to The Independent, Diana Charnholm notes that there are 52 holders of that type of license in the White Mountains and her purpose in bringing that up is not to get them in trouble, too — she is just trying to understand what exactly the Lion’s Den is doing wrong. The LLC employs 27 people and, like other similar establishments, provide a ton of charity to the community.

But that didn’t stop one Herb Carruthers, an investigator with the liquor board from showing up at the Lion’s Den on July 20 with bad news.

According to Jay Charnholm, Investigator Carruthers explained that the board had received an anonymous complaint and therefore had to do something about it, like shut the Lion’s Den down except for take out food and drinks. In a telephone interview with The Independent Sunday, Jay Charnholm said he could still offer sit-down dining only because the Lion’s Den offers off-track-betting entertainment. No doubt there is another set of regulations about that.

But it may take a nuclear physicist to understand the thicket of regulations apparently applicable here. It’s not only Ducey’s decree, the liquor board regulations, the Arizona Department of Health Services mandates, the Centers for Disease Control Guidelines, county health departments, and the even criminal law at work. Into the mix go larger questions of basic American freedom and prosperity and the seemingly capricious hammer of government, wielded for the good of the community. Judging by general public discourse recently, that last part is getting louder.

21 different liquor license types

Among the 21 different liquor licenses issued by the state, there is a series 3 for a microbrewery, a series 16 for a wine festival, a 6 for a bar, a 7 for beer and wine only and a 12 for restaurants which sell liquor. And they are expensive. According to records from the liquor board, a series 6 can cost over $140,000. That is the type the Lion’s Den has. It is defined by regulation (not by law which is voted on by accountable elected representatives) as available only through a lottery conducted by the liquor board, and allows the sale of all types of liquor, including for take out, if the product is in its “original container.”

Ducey’s decree says the word “bars” mean an establishment whose primary business is the sale or dispensing of alcoholic beverages.” But “primary business” is not defined by the regulators, but for restaurants, (a license number 12) at least 40% of revenue must come from food sales.

The Lion Den’s food revenues total 43.27% owners claim. That makes it a restaurant under the board’s own calculation, wrote Charnholm. Diane provided a break down of food sales in 2019 showing the sale of “22,417 burgers, 2,892 pastrami sandwiches, 3,945 dozens of chicken wings and 4,039 baskets of fish and chips. That’s only 4 items from a 39 items menu,” she said.

Jay Charnholm also sent a packet of other information to the liquor board including “restaurant audit sheets,” the liquor department’s own “Executive Order Guidelines,” and evidence of his complying with all CDC guidelines and Navajo County Health Department guidelines.

Jay said that The Lion’s Den opened back up in May after a 55-day shut down, reduced its operating hours, reduced its overall capacity to 69% and quit doing “large events” such as “team trivia and karaoke.”

He remarked to The Independent that his building was built in 1939 and has always functioned as a restaurant.

He closed his letter by pleading with the board: “We would like the opportunity to show what kind of business we are running, and would especially like the opportunity fo put our 27 workers back to work.”

The board’s view

In a saccharin-laden July 31 response, the board’s Deputy Director Michael Rosenberger wrote that he “could only imagine how difficult position small business owners like yourself are in.”

He went on to explain that that it’s “great” that they are complying with guidelines, but the various decrees, guidelines and regulations are all separate and “One has nothing to do with the other.”

Finally in typical amorphous regulatory language, Rosenberg concluded: “Just being over 40% food does not make a location less of a bar ... nor does 40% automatically make a location a pure restaurant.”

It might be helpful to business owners if there were actually a law that said that.

Unequal enforcement

Finally, a resident who did not identify herself wrote to The Independent about her experience last weekend when she went out to her “favorite places.” The Lion’s Den was shut down, but after doing some research about which establishments had what type of license, she found that similarly situated spots with the same license as The Lion’s Den were merrily buzzing with non-distancing, unmasked patrons. She does not understand the difference in treatment, but she has a lot of company.

Reach the reporter at rlynch@wmicentral.com

(25) comments

Bad road ahead

Another good article and that 43% info was interesting. State just kinda blew that off. Our own government starving us out.

Tired

Cry me a river. The rules are pretty simple and you took a chance defying them and got caught.

libertyminded

Tired: We seldom agree but I would like to note this one.

The Concho Cowboy

A series 12 license is more expensive than a series 6, I wonder why this "restaurant" decided to purchase a bar license?

Also many other businesses seem to be doing fine following the orders, I guess we have an abundance of nuclear scientists.

Tired

[thumbup]

Jklopez

Hmmmmm you have a nice fat rat in the woodpile.

NavajoThunder

This virus is still spreading, infecting, and killing people. We can do without our bars if it means saving lives.

All law-breaking establishments should be shut down and severely fined. This is about lives!

MountainMusic

I agree 120%! I've lost 2 family members and 3 friends to this pandemic.

rox2018

Sorry to hear that, but you are exactly right!

libertyminded

[thumbup]

rox2018

Can’t have Liberty if your Dead !

rox2018

Absolutely ! Life more important than Money!

If your Dead you can’t Pay your bills or spend very well

Patk

While most of us who go to the Den to enjoy the food, we thought the state's order was to reduce capacity to less than 50% which based on the completely packed parking lot every day clearly wasn't happening - and the owners state in this article that they reduced to 69%. Sorry .

ILuvShowLow

The government and the bureaucrats need to back off and let businesses and people get back to normal. Why can't everybody realize what is really going on here? The Den did nothing wrong except allow the community enjoy their free time. If you are concerned about catching the virus then stay home. Nobody made you go to The Den.... This shutdown does nothing but punish good people.

rox2018

If your Not going to wear a mask.... why don’t You Stay Home !

Tired

Well you are wrong. The Den did do something wrong.They did not obey the executive order therefore they were penalized. That's how it works Luvvy.

johndoe

Concho Cowboy the reason they have a series 6 is because the bar had one attached to it when they bought it. It is very hard to obtain any liquor license much less move one that is already there. Plus a series 6 has more freedom when it comes to sales of liquor, like they can sell package liquor etc. A series 12 is made for a true restaurant that makes most of it's profit from food sales and not drinks. It's complicated but as a former bar owner I can see why they were trying to stay as open as they could. When people mention it's about lives, that is true, but it's also about livelihoods! They employ 27 people who have rents and mortgages to pay, food to buy for their families, bills that need to be paid. It's hard enough doing that when things are normal in the bar business, trust me I know. I think we need to open things back up all the way. You see Walmart and Home Depot are packed every day and no one blinks an eye. Denny's is open with limited seating, why not bars? I personally don't frequent bars anymore after owning one but I do know what it's like to loose money from not being able to function, Arizona has masked up, now lets open up!

The Concho Cowboy

So what you're saying is that the Den should be treated differently because they decided to redefine their business without trying to change their license?

Don't try and compare a bar to Wal-Mart, Home Depot, or Denny's people are flat out less responsible when they are drinking, you don't drink at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, or Denny's.

This business aided in risking people's lives and not just those that go into the establishment, how can you have a livelihood if you're dead or in the ICU?

Look at the surrounding cities and tell me AZ has masked up.

ILuvShowLow

Agree 500% to JohnDoe's post !!

ILuvShowLow

Agree 500%

Tired

It's the rules which they broke, like it or now. BTW, people in bars tend to drink and get a little less responsible about social distancing sweetie.

eatkin

Once I read, ' anonymous complaint', that's all I needed to know. One thing this virus crisis has done in our country, it has laid bare individuals' true character, whether one wears a mask, fears the virus, follows the government's heavy hand... or, not. ~E. Atkin, Lakeside

Tired

Or blatantly breaks the rules then cries victim.

DoodlePrincess

Recent visit to The Lions Den we here wait staff were not wearing masks or social distancing, tables were dirty, and person at the Mike was coughing. Couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Tara

So, according to CNN, the pandamic is not going to go away. If you want to move to a country that it IS the government's job to take care of you and watch everything you do and say, move there! I, on the other hand, WANT to live in a free country where it's MY job to take care of myself. Do I wear a mask when I go into a store? EVERY time. Because I think it's right to TRY not to hurt others and it doesn't hurt me at all to wear one. I, also, choose not to go to bars or restaurants right now. But, that doesn't mean that I don't think that there shouldn't be a choice!

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