Cape council grants liquor license for bar near church

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Tony Scruggs got his conditional liquor license request approved Monday night.

He also got in a few parting shots.

Scruggs, the owner of the future Big's Sports Bar and Lounge, voiced his displeasure with the Cape Girardeau City Council and gave a rebuttal to Lynwood Baptist Church's point of view that was voiced by its pastor at Tuesday night's public hearing.

The council voted unanimously, with one abstention by Charlie Herbst for financial reasons, to approve the request because Scruggs has met all the legal requirements.

Scruggs' conditional liquor license request was tabled two weeks ago because a large group at the 1,300-member church voiced opposition to the bar that will open across Kings-highway from the church's gravel driveway. The church has plans to make the driveway a major entrance.

Because of the hundreds of people in opposition to the request, the council voted to hold a special public meeting, even though it is required by law to grant the request if the applicant meets the requirement. Mayor Jay Knudtson said he hoped the hearing would improve communication and bring the people together.

The hearing was unconventional. The council has rarely held hearings on liquor licenses in the past, and Scruggs brought that up Monday night, mentioning the new White House bar and Regina's House of Dolls as two cases where there was no public hearing.

Different church representatives have addressed the council in the last month, saying the location -- on a five-lane highway with a 50 mph speed limit -- is too dangerous for a bar.

Dr. Derek Staples, the church's pastor, spoke on behalf of the church at Tuesday night's public hearing and gave a positive message. About 150 people attended, most of them from Lynwood. Another church member, Dustin Nelson, gave an emotional account of how he lost a friend to a drunk driver.

Scruggs said he did not speak Tuesday night because his lawyer told him not to. But Scruggs didn't hesitate Monday night.

"The reverend said he was my friend," said Scruggs, referring to Staples' comments Tuesday night. "We had coffee and pie, but that does not make him my friend. If he was my friend, he would've known my brother was killed by a drunk driver. But I'm not going to run people out of business."

Scruggs added that he has suffered monetary damages due to the delays in the process and was disappointed in the council. He also said the stress has affected him physically. He said he's lost 15 pounds.

"I'm tired," he said. "Really tired."

Others speak

Two others spoke on behalf of Scruggs, John Casebolt of Scott City and Bill Foster of Cape Girardeau.

Foster berated both the council and the church.

"This man is trying to make a living," Foster said. "There is no reason why this man shouldn't open up his business. You cannot legislate morality."

Casebolt, a member of a Southern Baptist church, took a more pragmatic approach, saying that Scruggs should be granted the license request because he is in accordance with the law. He said, if the council felt strongly about this issue, they should perhaps look into changing the law.

Scott Bechtold, who has attended Lynwood Baptist Church but is a member of Fruitland Community Church, was the only one who addressed the council in opposition of the liquor license Monday night. He said he was concerned with the safety issues.

"I'm sure they just followed established precedures," Bechtold said following the meeting. "I think everything will work out in the long run."

335-6611, extension 127

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