The Smiling Skull Saloon in Athens appeals the revocation of its liquor license, but the state claims it’s too late

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — The owners of the Smiling Skull Saloon in Athens that had their liquor license revoked last month by state regulators have filed an appeal, but the state argues that appeal was filed past the deadline.

The Smiling Skull Saloon on West Union Street in Athens.
The Smiling Skull Saloon on West Union Street in Athens. [Google Maps]
The Smiling Skull on West Union Street lost its license after the state Liquor Control Commission said it failed to pay a $10,000 fine on time.

The bar’s owners are asking the court to put a hold on the license revocation while they challenge the reason they were fined in the first place. They argue that losing the license will force them to shut down the bar for good.

In early August, the liquor commission held a hearing on allegations that the Smiling Skull had been serving alcohol even though its license had been suspended. The bar’s owners denied this.

On Sept. 7, the commission concluded the allegations were supported by the evidence and gave the owners a choice: They could pay $10,000 or have their license revoked.

The deadline to pay was Sept. 28. The commission didn’t receive the payment at its Columbus office by then and revoked the license a week later.

The bar’s owners note in their appeal that they mailed a $10,000 cashier’s check in a U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail envelope on Sept. 25. A photocopy of the envelope and the postal receipt included with the appeal both show an expected delivery date of Sept. 26, the following day.

According to the Postal Service’s tracking service, the check was delivered in Columbus on Oct. 3 — nine days later.

The attorney for the bar’s owners notes in the appeal that his investigation turned up practices that could have delayed delivery: Mail addressed to the commission is not delivered directly to the commission. Instead, it is held by the Postal Service in Columbus until it is picked up by a state mailroom employee. The mail goes to another building where it gets sorted and then delivered by state employees.

The appeal also notes that while the deadline for receiving the check was Sept. 28, the date set for the license revocation should the check not arrive by then was Oct. 5. The appeal argues that since the commission received the check on Oct. 4, there was no need to go ahead with the revocation the next day.

“Draconian results based on errors that are not the fault of a tax paying business are not in the public’s best interest,” the appeal states. “It should not take 9 days for a document to get from Athens to Columbus. … The public is best served by allowing this business to continue to operate, bring back jobs, and pay taxes, utilities and rent.”

One day after the appeal was filed last week, the state filed a motion to dismiss it, arguing the appeal was filed too late and therefore the court cannot hear it. Under state law, an appeal must be filed within 21 days of a liquor commission order, which in this case put the deadline at Sept. 28 — the same day the $10,000 check was due.

A hearing on the motion to dismiss is scheduled for Thursday next week.