DOVER — Irish Mike’s Olde Towne Tavern owner plans to appeal the suspension of his bar’s business license to the Dover City Council, he said in a statement released Monday.
Kevin Howard, who has owned the Loockerman Street establishment for almost 30 years, called the city’s actions last month unlawful and wrong.
“After almost 30 years in business downtown, I feel betrayed by a city that I’ve invested much of my life into. Dover is better than this, and while maybe the city has lost sight of that, I haven’t. I look forward to my hearing before city council, who I know love this city like I do,” Mr. Howard said in a statement released through his attorney John W. Paradee.
Irish Mike’s business license was pulled, and its liquor license suspended last month due to what Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen at the time called a “matter of public safety.”
Late last month, David Hugg, Dover’s director of planning and inspection, announced that Irish Mike’s would be retroactively suspended for 30 days, beginning Sept. 9, the day the bar closed.
The suspension ended Oct. 8.
“Despite my best efforts, and in spite of an unblemished record as a business licensee of the city of Dover, my business license was unceremoniously, and unlawfully, suspended by the city on Sept. 9, 2021 - without even so much as a conversation beforehand. To me, that’s wrong,” Mr. Howard said.
“Not only has the city acted illegally, and exposed its taxpayers to significant legal jeopardy, but I think this action sets a dangerous precedent for business owners in an area of the city that struggles to attract viable businesses.”
According to city officials, the move was the result of Dover law enforcement officials being called to the 107 W. Loockerman St. tavern 35 times between May 14 and Sept. 4.
Mr. Howard disagrees with the city’s implication that his business was the cause of those calls to downtown Dover and insists that crime has continued while his business has been closed.
“In the weeks since my business was wrongfully shut down by the city, the issues the city has complained of, and tried to blame on Irish Mike’s, continue unabated. Individuals continue to gather in large numbers on and around Loockerman Street: drinking, listening to loud music, and sitting in parked cars, with all the attendant issues that surround same — including fighting and firearm violence. All while Irish Mike’s remains shuttered,” he said.
Mr. Howard believes the city park across the street from his bar is more likely to be the source of the city’s problems and not Irish Mike’s.
“It’s time for the city to own their role in the violence downtown, and stop blaming decent, hard-working business owners for their own shortcomings. You see, while I can, and do, control what happens inside my bar, I can’t control what happens in the city’s empty ‘park’ on Loockerman Street (formerly the home of Dover Hardware and the Dover Newsstand). Nor, can I control what happens in the city’s own parking lots. Or streets. Or sidewalks. One of the shootings that the city used as a rationale for suspending my business license happened in their own Downtown Dover Partnership parking lot,” Mr. Howard said.
To officially reopen, Mr. Howard has to show city leaders “definitive and enforceable actions to correct and mitigate underlying causes of the prior complaints,” according to Mr. Hugg’s official decision at the time of suspension.
On Monday, Mr. Hugg said that there were “no updates” on Irish Mike’s business license status. Consequently, the tavern’s liquor license also remains suspended.
If the bar’s business license is reinstated, the city will conduct monthly reviews of any complaints received by either the Dover Police Department, the Dover Fire Marshal’s Office or city code enforcement officers. Further incidents could result in more actions from the city. There will be no timeline on how long the monthly checks will last.
Irish Mike’s owners can appeal the suspension ruling by city officials to City Council within 30 days of Mr. Hugg’s announcement.
“As one of the longtime stewards of Loockerman Street, I have a vested interest in being a good neighbor and a responsible businessman. For me, it goes even deeper than that — my own children work at Irish Mike’s. Their safety and the safety of all our employees and patrons is my primary concern. There is nothing I won’t do to keep them safe,” Mr. Howard said.