Boulder's Beverage Licensing Authority voted 4-1 late Monday to deny the transfer of the liquor license of longtime University Hill institution K's China to its successor, NoEntiendo, following a six-hour hearing.
Longtime K's general manager Kyle McNamara bought the business this spring and reopened as NoEntiendo, a restaurant and bar serving a fusion of South American and American food.
NoEntiendo had a temporary license and applied for a permanent one. With the denial, however, NoEntiendo's license reverts to the previous owners of K's China. But because that license expired in July, the previous owners would be required to file a late renewal application to continue to use it.
In denying the transfer, Beverage Licensing Authority members cited K's China's past problems and recent reports by police of alleged violations of the conditions of K's license that remained in place under NoEntiendo's temporary license.
"He probably has many talents, but I don't think running a bar is one of them," Beverage Licensing Authority member Lisa Spalding said of McNamara.
Restrictions imposed on the renewal of K's liquor license last year included a requirement that every person who comes into NoEntiendo -- regardless of whether they plan to drink -- must show ID. And those who order alcohol are required to show a second form of ID.
Boulder police reported noise complaints and concerns about hand-stamping and ID checks at K's and NoEntiendo.
Carlene Hofmann, the alcohol enforcement officer for Boulder police, said that in a check on April 20 she found speakers on the roof that exceeded the restaurant's size restriction. The business also didn't have the required ID scanner, which McNamara said had been stolen but not reported to police right away because he was at his grandmother's funeral.
A third issue Hofmann noted was the stamps indicating customers were old enough to drink were "no larger than a nickel" and placed on the inside of the wrist rather than on the back of the hand. McNamara said the conditions only require that the stamp be on the right hand, but don't require a certain size.
Too many people on the roof and music that was too loud also were noted by police on previous visits.
No citations against NoEntiendo were issued.
Timothy McMurray, who cast the dissenting vote, pointed out that the city didn't call for a hearing before the liquor board to address the violations.
"I don't understand why city didn't go forward with issues on license," he said.
At the hearing, McNamara said he addressed all the concerns and did his best to meet all the stipulations, including adding soundproofing material, modifying the seating, changing the menu and raising drink prices.
"I think a lot of those were misunderstandings," McNamara said. "We're following all the rules to be best of our ability."
Beverage Licensing Authority members said McNamara's criminal history, which includes a DUI and two convictions for petty theft for shoplifting a couple of items from grocery stores when he was 19 and 20, didn't factor into their decision because he appears to have been rehabilitated.
McNamara said his issues started after a bad traffic accident at 17 that prompted him to start drinking heavily. He said he's been through treatment and has been sober since 2009. Colorado law says that holders of liquor licenses should be "of good moral character."
Eleven people testified on McNamara's behalf, talking about his rehabilitation from his drug and alcohol problems and willingness to help those who are dealing with similar issues. Employees said NoEntiendo has changed for the better and become family friendly -- instead of being just a place to drink -- through McNamara's leadership.
"If you're truly trying to change the atmosphere on the Hill, there's not a better person to do it," said friend Phillip Hengemuhle.