OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — When bars serve minors, it's taken very seriously in the city of Omaha. But if a bar owner attempts to cover it up, it could be grounds for losing their liquor license.
"The old saying, it's not the crime, it's the cover-up," said City Council President Chris Jerram.
The Omaha City Council held a public hearing on Tuesday and is considering holding a formal hearing next week. The council opted to lay it over but plans to bring it back.
Ryan Wiesen, an attorney for the city of Omaha, outlined a case in which six minors were served at the Good Life Sports Bar & Grill on Christmas Day 2020. One later got in a car, crashed, and got seriously hurt.
Wiesen then outlined the police investigation. The officers initially asked for security footage of the bar.
Councilmember Colleen Brennan, upset at the allegations, says that serving minors absolutely cannot happen and that it’s the bars responsibility to be ensuring it doesn’t happen.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) May 18, 2021
Owner Chad McMahon denied it, and when they got a warrant, McMahon told police, shown in bodycam footage, that he feared incriminating himself.
"The only good that can come out of it, right, is nothing for me. I'm self-incriminating if you guys are looking at if we're carding him or not. There's nothing good that comes out of it," said McMahon in footage taken several days after the Christmas Day incident.
When the police got the footage, they said they couldn't find video from the night the minors got served. They showed call records in the council meeting showing that the footage may have been deleted.
They also showed a police report in which McMahon attempted to text Omaha officers not involved in the case. And later when he was believed to be on the phone with the investigators, the city said McMahon told them he knows "Todd,” possibly referring to Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.
"Clearly this is an attempt at intimidating officers and an attempt to prevent them from completing their tavern report and completing their investigation," said Wiesen.
McMahon's attorney, Mike Kelley, acknowledged that minors drank that night.
Late to update...the council unanimously approved laying over the hearing until they know about possible charges against McMahon.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) May 18, 2021
Sounds like it could be anywhere from several weeks, to several months before they start the process again.
"There's really no question that we served the minors that evening. We don't need the videotape to prove that," said Kelley.
Then came testimony from former server Madisyn Riggle, who showed a text from McMahon saying "we are not ID experts."
"We were told multiple times we are not ID experts, and if they show a form of identification that says they are 21, whether it looks fake or not we were told to serve them,” said Riggle.
Then five current employees came forward and told the council they always ID check.
"The last thing we would ever do is to serve to a minor, purposely or un-purposely. It just doesn't happen. It's not part of our karma," said Dave Schilling, an employee with the chain of ‘Good Life’ bars.
The employees, mostly including managers, said if they think there's an issue, that it's the manager's call.
"We give them training, we teach them, we tell them what to look for. If they're not comfortable, grab me," said Kimberly Osborne, a manager at one of the locations.
Omaha City Council will soon vote to set a hearing on consideration of revoking the liquor license of Chad McMahon owner of the Good Life Bar.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) May 18, 2021
Today is more of a formality, but McMahon and some current and ex-employees are here to speak. pic.twitter.com/GqPoIYS6gQ
Kelley also told the council that if a hearing was next week, he'd be hamstrung, as the two people involved in the Christmas night incident wouldn't be able to testify because they're fighting in court.
"I can't bring them in because I don't have any witnesses. That's why this proceeding, in my view, is grossly unfair, and mostly it's premature," said Kelley.
McMahon is also being charged with first-degree assault in Sarpy County, and it was announced at the meeting that the city is seeking charges on obstruction of justice.
"It is my intention that Mr. McMahon is going to be charged based on the video incident with obstruction,” said Matt Kuhse, Omaha City Attorney.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine also said he's looking into charges on his end and hopes to have an answer by the end of next week.
The council ultimately opted to lay over the formal hearing and wait until they know more about both cases.
Councilmember Brinker Harding said he thinks there should be a hearing down the road and is leaving little wiggle room for more misconduct at the Good Life bar.
"I hope it's a one-off and it's not something that happens with any degree of frequency, because if it does happen with any degree of frequency, I have no sympathy for you Mr. McMahon," said Harding.
If the city eventually recommends taking away a license, it goes to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission to make the final call.
The commission could decide to take away McMahon's license for all his metro bars, or just the Omaha location.