The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



BREAKING NEWS: Boat Club still docked

Claire Heininger | Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The ship can’t sail yet.

Campus buzz that the popular South Bend bar the Boat Club – a notorious underage drinking haven until police raids forced it to shut down more than a year ago – is on the verge of reopening its doors was temporarily quieted Wednesday when the St. Joseph County Alcohol and Tobacco Commission voted to revoke the bar owner’s liquor license rather than allow it to be transferred, a board member said.

South Bend resident Joseph L. Ready applied for a transfer of the license from Boat Club owner Michael McNeff, who has held the license in escrow since the Indiana State Alcohol and Tobacco Commission forced him to close the bar in December 2004, said Sara Bewley, a county ATC member and Indiana State Excise Police officer.

But McNeff and his attorney Mitchell Heppenheimer didn’t abide by the terms of their agreement with the state commission that allowed them to sell the bar, Bewley said after the county board’s decision Wednesday.

“It was supposed to be a transfer to a non-related party,” Bewley said, referring to the “arm’s-length transaction” agreement the bar made with the state ATC – an arrangement forbidding McNeff from selling the license to anyone who would allow him to remain involved in the bar.

McNeff’s Millenium Club, Inc., which owns the Boat Club, was attempting to sell the bar to Ready on contract, Bewley said, meaning if Ready broke contract, ownership would revert to McNeff.

“[Heppenheimer and McNeff were] totally not in keeping with the agreement,” Bewley said. “[The decision to revoke the license] was pretty much cut-and-dried.”

Heppenheimer plans to appeal the county commission’s decision to the state, which he must do within 15 days, Bewley said.

The state board has been more sympathetic to Boat Club ownership in recent years, twice asking the county board to reconsider its votes against renewing the bar’s liquor license, then overruling the local board and allowing McNeff to keep the license in escrow to attempt to sell it.

Heppenheimer did not return Observer phone calls seeking comment early Wednesday afternoon.

Excise police first busted the 106 N. Hill St. bar in January 2003, citing 213 patrons – the vast majority of whom were Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students – for underage drinking. A second raid in December 2004 found 32 minors in the bar.

Look for more coverage in Thursday’s Observer.