Purported bar being investigated in WilmontWILMONT — In the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office evidence locker, case after case of beer is stacked against a wall. More than 50 cases of beer and numerous bottles of hard liquor were confiscated last week from what appeared to be a modern-day speakeasy.
By: Justine Wettschreck, Worthington Daily Globe
WILMONT — In the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office evidence locker, case after case of beer is stacked against a wall.
More than 50 cases of beer and numerous bottles of hard liquor were confiscated last week from what appeared to be a modern-day speakeasy.
According to Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening, his office received a report of an unlicensed bar and grill in Wilmont. A search warrant was executed last Wednesday, and authorities found what looked to be a bar set-up, complete with plenty of liquor and bar snacks. Also allegedly found was a sign that read “Tom’s Bar and Grill.”
The incident report states the suspected establishment was located at Tom’s Car Wash, owned by Tom Spartz of Wilmont. The “bar” was found in a building between the car wash and the Wilmont Municipal Liquor Store. Inside were a gas grill and various Crockpots and roasters, which locals say Spartz used to cook food to serve to his “customers” — who were not asked to pay, but to “donate.”
Nobles-Rock Community Health Sanitarian Jason Kloss said he was at the site when the warrant was executed and found food in the refrigerator such as raw meat and snacks.
Kloss, whose office is responsible for issuing food and beverage licenses, said he will send Spartz a letter to inform him he needs to cease and desist with his food and beverage activity.
“You can’t get a license unless you meet certain requirements,” Kloss explained. “This guy didn’t have that, and frankly, there is no hope of him being licensed, even if he wanted to, unless he makes improvements.”
Beside the food and beverage license, Spartz allegedly does not have a liquor license for his establishment. Kloss was told by a state liquor compliance officer that a liquor license is required to even display liquor paraphernalia in a commercial building.
“He had liquor products displayed like it was a bar,” Kloss reported. “According to the liquor rules, you can’t do that unless you have a license.”
Minnesota statute 340A.401 states no person may directly or indirectly, on any pretense or by any device, sell, barter, charge for possession or otherwise dispose of alcoholic beverages as part of a commercial transaction without having obtained a license or permit. To sell an alcoholic beverage without a license authorizing the sale is a gross misdemeanor, statute 340A.702 sub.1 states.
When it comes to a food and beverage license, even operating for donation or free will is not an excuse to go unlicensed, according to Kloss.
“If a store sponsors a hot dog giveaway, a license is still required for that event,” he stated. “Money changing hands is a factor, but not the only factor. Establishments that provide food to the public have to have a license — with some exceptions, such as a private party.”
Tom’s Bar and Grill reportedly opened in October — the same month the smoking ban went into effect in Minnesota — and one witness said there was smoking in the commercial building.
“The thing is, he was in violation of the clean air act whether it was a bar and grill or not,” Kloss said. “If he was doing business there, he or anyone else can’t be smoking there.”
Kloss said the building, attached to the car wash, was required to be smoke-free.
“He was in violation of that statute, but no violations were issued because no complaints were received,” Kloss added.
One Wilmont resident told the Daily Globe Spartz was banned from the city’s municipal bar for his behavior. Wilmont City Attorney Larry Lucht said he wrote a letter to Spartz in August 2007 on behalf of the municipal store.
“It was to inform him he was no longer allowed as a patron because of his conduct,” Lucht said. “It was short and sweet.”
The letter informed Spartz authorities would be called if he entered the premises, and he could end up charged with criminal trespassing.
The matter is still under the investigation of the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office. Until the case is turned over to his office, Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore said he cannot be sure what kind of charges, if any, Spartz may be facing.
A phone call to Spartz was not returned.