ELKO — Cabo Bar owners Acela Ceja and Carlos Nunez have been ordered to pay $3,310 and told to keep their business closed for 10 days next month after being caught serving alcohol to a minor.
In early November an underage member of a band playing at the bar was seen consuming alcohol on the premises at 449 Railroad St. The police department investigated the violation of City Code 4-5-26, knowingly allowing a minor to loiter in the bar area.
City officials and law enforcement came up with a penalty that would enforce the code violation but still allow the business to continue to operate.
“The licensee would admit a violation of the code by allowing a minor to loiter on the premises and pay a fine of $1,000 for that, and the licensee and license would be on probation for a period of one year,” said city attorney Thomas Coyle at the March 26 Elko City Council meeting.
The bar will be closed from April 14 to 24.
The business was also given other conditions to abide by. From March 31 to April 30, when not in that closure period, last call will be no later than 2 a.m. The owners or employees will need to check the identification of all people entering the facility. Another condition requires the employees and owners to not be under the influence while working.
Security provisions include requiring security personnel at all entrances and exits on Fridays and Saturdays during operation. Security cameras also need to be installed for a 15-day period, and subject to access by the police department.
“Finally, there is a recovery provision for the city’s legal fees which we estimated at $2,310,” Coyle said.
“I wanted to see something that was punitive in this agreement yet proportional to the violation that occurred,” Mayor Reece Keener said. “I think that if we were to go any heavier it would put the establishment out of business. We gave the defendant the opportunity to respond to this and they have accepted it. If they had rejected it they would have been at risk of losing their liquor license. I hope my fellow council members will be on board with supporting everything as stipulated in the agreement.”
City council member Bill Hance called for a closure period that would encompass two weekends when the business is in full swing. Cabo’s regular hours are Thursday through Saturday, 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. He also wanted security detail at the door on a regular basis.
Elko Police Chief Ben Reed said there is no provision in the current code to mandate security on bars.
“We did discuss the second weekend of a hard closure and we wanted to tally up the fine, the city’s legal fees and the closure at 2 a.m. for the rest of the 30 days which is heavily in the morning hours,” Reed said. “So there is a financial hit there. We were trying to balance all that and not completely shut them down. Did we get that right or not, I don’t know.”
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“While this might not be 100 percent what any of us individually want, I really feel this is the right direction we can go and I hope we can vote on the agreement as it is published here,” Keener said.
Reed mentioned that this is not the business’s first offense.
“This isn’t the first issue or the first problem,” he said. “The police department [administration] has met with the licensees and me personally two or three times or more. They have done some good things and they have made some mistakes and we have tried to hold them accountable. We are trying to give them an opportunity to correct.”
He said the police department has taken similar steps with other drinking establishments and has seen them correct their faults or go out of business.
“I just want to make sure you understand the agreement you are signing,” said city council member Robert Schmidtlein.
“We do understand that, yes,” Nunez said.
“One last thing I want to throw out is that I want you to understand that a liquor license is a privilege,” Schmidtlein said. “As the chief mentioned, we can take disciplinary action at any given time. I hope you don’t come back because if you do we will revoke your license. I think you have learned from your mistakes.”
Nunez asked to speak again on his behalf.
“So everybody in this room understands we have tallied up all of our costs,” Nunez said. “Our business is profitable from midnight to about four in the morning. With us closing at two in the morning — and we are going to do that for a whole month — our impact in lost revenue will be about $10,000 plus our other costs. We will be paying about $14,000 for this incident to just stay in business. Any more than that [and] I think we would have to sell and abandon our investment in time and money, but it has to be done, so whatever you guys decide.”
Councilwoman Mandy Simmons moved to approve the agreement as it was written.
All agreed to the motion.
“I just wanted to commend you on the remodel you did [on the bar] to make downtown Elko look better,” Councilman Chips Stone added.