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Toasty Beaver’s could still face penalties

BEMIDJI —Toasty Beaver’s Sports Bar and Grill could still be assessed penalties for its cooking grease ending up in the city’s stormwater system.

City attorney Al Felix said last week that city staff is still determining what penalties they may pursue. That could include a fine, or at the most severe, a revocation of the establishment’s liquor license.

"Those are the things the city will have to consider," Felix said.

Any action with the bar’s liquor license, however, would have to come from the city council, Felix said. The bar has already taken responsibility for the grease ending up in the stormwater system, and will pay for the cleanup that occurred late last month.

Felix estimated that cost to be about $12,000.

Ross Hussey, a Minneapolis-based attorney who is representing Toasty Beaver’s in the matter, said they are trying to resolve the situation.

"We’re working with the city," Hussey said Friday.

Last week, the two sides were scheduled to meet in an administrative hearing. But that hearing was canceled as Toasty Beaver’s took responsibility for the grease being in the stormwater system.

Hussey said, however, that the grease was not dumped intentionally by Toasty Beaver’s staff as the city has alleged. The city has based that claim on witness accounts from a neighboring business.

"We would take the perspective that it was intentional," Felix said on Thursday.

Felix said the city took quick action on cleaning out the stormwater system because of concerns that the rapid spring melt would cause the grease to be flushed into Lake Bemidji. Other prominent city issues like pending litigation with Bemidji Township and a land sale on the south shore of Lake Bemidji have preoccupied city staff before it could consider any further action.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is reviewing the situation, as well. Dan Olson, public information officer for the MPCA’s local region, said the agency has not determined whether there were any violations, but he said that review should be completed "fairly soon."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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