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Neighbors aren't only ones barking mad

Bar owner and others say complaints are too rabid

May 3, 2010

Greenfield — Mad Dog Saloon has come under scrutiny after a bevy of complaints from neighbors, and the alderman representing them, who say the bar has affected the quality of life in the area.

But the bar's owner and patrons say many of those problems do not exist or have been overblown, and that they want to work with those same residents to come with solutions.

"I'm encouraging neighbors to come check the place out," owner Dominic LaLicata said. "I want people to check the place out and see the kind of crowds we have in there. I want people to see the truth.

"Give the place a chance."

Hounding city for action

The bar, 4395 S. 76th St., is on the defensive after Alderman Tom Pietrowski called for a review of the business' special-use permit, saying residents in the surrounding neighborhoods have been disrupted by many late-night incidents.

Several neighbors who spoke to the Common Council last month said the problems are real.

Residents say the problems started last year, when Boulder Junction changed its name to Mad Dog Saloon and its operation, going from a "restaurant which also has a bar" to a "bar which also serves food."

Residents have complained of noise and vehicles speeding through the neighborhood. They have alleged other offenses such as public urination and drug use, charges LaLicata denies.

A few residents told the council problems have gotten so bad some neighbors are sleeping on different sides of their homes to avoid the noise.

"In the 30 years we've lived there, we've never seen anything like this," said Elaine Colbo, who with her husband, Dean, own a home in the 7700 block of West Whitaker Avenue. "The noise is terrible, the neighbors are putting up with crap and there's no reason why we as taxpayers should have to put up with this."

The Greenfield Plan Commission will listen to residents and Mad Dog representatives during its May 11 meeting, though it is not a formal public hearing.

Commission members may present a recommendation on the future of the permit to the Common Council, which would have the final say.

The chances of actually revoking the permit, the outcome the neighbors want, remain to be seen.

Territorial reality

Mayor Michael Neitzke said that it is not an easy process to terminate a special-use permit. The bar's attorney, John Fuchs, called it unlikely that the bar could be shut down.

"We recognize the solution in the neighbors' eyes is to close it, but that, candidly, is not realistic," Fuchs said. "This is not an entity that is applying for zoning, nor is it an entity applying for a liquor license. They already have those things … and they absolutely do have a property right."

Fuchs and LaLicata said instead of closing, they would rather work with neighbors to fix the problems, a process already under way.

Taking bite out of complaints

A wooden fence was erected in the back to address problems with lights shining into residents' homes, a no-left-turn sign was put up to try and keep patrons out of residential neighborhoods and security employees monitor the inside and outside of the establishment.

"On the weekends, they have five (security) people who look like they just missed playing linebacker in the NFL," Fuchs said.

Tony Tarantino, 78, said he goes to the bar regularly to eat and watch a baseball game and has not witnessed the type of behavior neighbors are alleging.

"This is not a time to close the business. This is a time to work with the man," Tarantino said. "Sit down like gentlemen and work this thing out."

FYI

WHAT: Greenfield Plan Commission discussion on Mad Dog Saloon

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. May 11

WHERE: City Hall, 7325 W. Forest Home Ave.

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