LINCOLN — The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday that a Lincoln sports bar should not have lost its liquor license over a brawl that broke out following a Terence “Bud” Crawford boxing match in Lincoln in 2017.
The brawl occurred at a post-match event put on by a promoter and held at Heidelberg’s, a longtime north Lincoln bar.
A fight broke out near closing time on Aug. 20 and ended up involving hundreds of patrons, leading to Lincoln police calling in all available units.
In response, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission voted to yank Heidelberg’s liquor license.
The commission found that the bar had violated commission rules by allowing a disturbance on its premises and by holding the special event, despite warnings from Lincoln police that a similar event following an Omaha boxing match had ended up with an “all-call” disturbance.
The decision was upheld on appeal to the Lancaster County District Court, which said the bar’s owner, John McManus, had been made aware of the potential danger and failed to take steps to stop it.
But the state high court ruled Friday that those decisions ignored a key part of commission’s rule concerning disturbances.
The rule holds bars and other licensees responsible for not allowing “any unreasonable disturbance ... to continue” without taking appropriate steps to deal with it.
That means, according to the ruling, a licensee cannot be required to prevent a disturbance. It can only be required stop a disturbance from continuing once it does occur.
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“(McManus) argues that nothing in the regulation places a duty on a licensee to take action against something that might or could happen. We agree,” the Supreme Court said.
However, the court emphasized that its ruling does not prevent the commission from changing its rules to require that licensees take reasonable steps to prevent disturbances from happening.
Hobert Rupe, the commission’s executive director, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Heidelberg’s attorney, Charles Humble of Lincoln, said his client was pleased with the decision.