A.J. Mottet, owner of Dingus Lounge, faced the possible suspension of his liquor license for 10 days due to violations alleged by the Knoxville Police Department (KPD). Mottet hoped to avoid this and offered to pay a fine. After much discussion and multiple votes, Mottet was fined $1,000 by the Knoxville City Council Monday night.
During a hearing regarding the future of the bar's liquor license, Mottet was represented by John Billingsley of Newton. Billingsley called witnesses to the council chambers to tell their stories about the nights in question, and to speak to Mottet's character in general.
In response to an anonymous complaint received by the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, the KPD performed two “bar checks” after 2 a.m. Dec. 15-16. On the first night, officers allegedly found patrons and employees in the bar, with beverages in front of them, at 2:10 a.m. Iowa law requires non-employees to leave liquor establishments by 2 a.m. The next night, there were still people in the after hours, but no beverages were present. Mottet's defense is that he and his staff offer rides home to customers, to ensure that these individuals, and the public, remain safe.
“There were two people there after two o'clock waiting for a ride home,” Billingsley said.
Deanna Wahl, a part-time bartender at Dingus, was at the bar as a patron on Dec. 15. She helped clean after closing and when the officers arrived, employees were still in the process of cleaning. On the second night, Wahl testified that people were waiting for rides.
Councilor April Verwers asked why the bar did not ask the customers to wait outside. Wahl said that it was too cold to ask them to do so.
“We feel a responsibility to our patrons,” another bartender, Katelyn Haning, said. She said the incidents were misunderstandings and that the bar was not ignoring the law. Haning was not present either night in question.