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Erik Burgess, Published February 04 2013

Fargo OKs transfer of JT Cigarro liquor license

FARGO – Police and city leaders say they’ll be keeping a close eye on the new ownership at JT Cigarro.

The Fargo City Commission unanimously approved on Monday night the transfer of the liquor license from the south Fargo bar’s previous owner Dana Coulter to new owners Barrett Prody and Kevin Mahan.

But commissioners and Police Chief Keith Ternes had two stipulations for the transfer – that Prody and Mahan keep their criminal records clean, and that they comply fully with the statewide smoking ban.

A background check by police showed Prody was arrested twice for driving under the influence of alcohol – in Otter Tail County, Minn., in 2006 and in Cass County in 2011. The latter was later reduced to a reckless driving charge following a plea deal, according to City Commission documents.

Prody was also arrested in 2009 for resisting a police officer in Fargo and later pleaded guilty in municipal court to obstructing an officer. Mahan has a DWI conviction from 2007 in Otter Tail County.

Ternes told the commission the charges, in his mind, did not warrant denial of the liquor license transfer. But in a memo to commissioners, Ternes said Prody’s criminal history is somewhat concerning.

“Mr. Prody’s lack of responsible alcohol use and confrontational interaction with police (albeit isolated to the one incident) causes me to question his ability to responsibly hold a liquor license,” Ternes wrote.

Another stipulation of the license transfer concerned the bar’s compliance with the statewide smoking ban.

Coulter, the previous owner, had been allowing customers to smoke inside the building in a locked “members only” room, despite a statewide smoking ban. Coulter had said he found a “loophole” in the ban, which city public health officials disputed.

“The transfer of the license really should be contingent on continued compliance (with the ban),” Ternes told the commission on Monday.

Prody was present at the meeting, and he assured the commissioners that smoking at JT Cigarro is a “thing of the past.”

“In fact, it ceased to exist as of today,” he said Monday. He did not address his criminal record.

Prody told The Forum in January that he plans on removing the room that was being used for smoking and replacing it with a restaurant, which he hopes to open in March.

Commissioners also unanimously approved the transfer of a liquor license at Red River Lodge and Suites in south Fargo. Sprague said two of the three owners were leaving the business, and whenever 50 percent or more of the ownership of liquor license changes, it requires city approval.

No issues were brought up in the background check for those owners.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518

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