Only five months after approving a request to make Segredo among the largest entertainment venues in Madison, the city's Alcohol License Review Committee now will review the Downtown bar's liquor license as police probe two gun-related incidents in the last month.
"It's certainly disappointing and troubling," said Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District. "Segredo was really welcomed with open arms by our community and the ALRC."
At an ALRC hearing in December regarding Segredo's request to increase capacity from 605 to 720, Downtown Police Capt. Carl Gloede spoke in support of the bar. He told the committee that Segredo owner Michael Hierl had cooperated with police to improve security, taking suggestions to add video surveillance, increase lighting and make staff more visible outside the bar, an area heavy with bars that starting last summer had been the scene of late-night violence.
But the good vibes appear to have frayed somewhat even before gunfire erupted outside the bar in the 600 block of University Avenue early last Saturday morning. Three were wounded and a crowd estimated at more than 100 scattered.
An April 21 incident inside the bar initially drew police attention.
That night, the bar's lead security guard admitted he left work with a loaded 9mm pistol and holster that had been dropped on the bar's floor by a patron police later identified as Deonte Thompson, 21, of Madison.
Thompson allegedly left Segredo sometime that night, not realizing he had dropped the gun, and returned later seeking its return. The security guard called police several hours after bringing it home to report it, police said.
Hierl said the employee acted alone without consulting anyone else at the bar. He was "severely reprimanded and suspended," Hierl said, but is now working at the bar again pending results of the police investigation.
"He's extremely remorseful," Hierl said. "It was just a stupid, stupid error in judgment."
Gloede wasn't available for comment Tuesday but on Monday emailed the State Journal that police sought the review of Segredo's liquor license because of "noncompliance with an investigation at the night club," without specifying.
Hierl said on Tuesday that he's willing to listen to police concerns and work on solutions.
"I know that the separation request leads you and others to believe we're in serious trouble," he said. "The way I look at it is that we now know there are concerns about the operation. I'm looking forward to hearing what the specific concerns are."
Segredo is one of seven establishments throughout the city facing scrutiny by the ALRC as part of the annual review that all liquor license holders undergo.
Of the seven, only Segredo and a West Side tavern, Little Manhattan, are being reviewed at the request of police under the disorderly house designation. The others face less serious charges related to noise or operating above capacity.
The city attorney's office already has indicated it will seek not to renew Little Manhattan's license. Open only since November, the bar drew police scrutiny because of a March private party in which the bar allegedly more than doubled its 125-person capacity. On May 11, police were called there on a report of gunshots and found a woman in the bathroom with a gunshot wound to the leg and another woman with a graze wound to the ankle.
The city hasn't announced it will pursue nonrenewal of Segredo's license, although it's an option, Verveer said. The city also could recommend other conditions including decreasing the bar's capacity, renewing its liquor license but not its entertainment license or stripping the bar's ability to let in underage patrons for certain events. It currently has an 18-and-up entertainment license.
Hearings for all seven establishments are scheduled for early June, with a full ALRC vote expected June 11. The City Council must approve any non-renewals or changes to licenses by June 15.