Sobelmans at Marquette operating with expired license after gun incident

Owner says he's a political target
Posted at 7:33 PM, Sep 06, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee burger staple might be shut down temporarily. The city said it's about procedure, but the owner said he's being targeted by his alderman.

Sobelman's at Marquette remained open Tuesday without operating licenses, which expired August 31. Tuesday morning, the owners hoped for help at a common council meeting, but found they'd have to wait two weeks, possibly shutting down because of their lapsed permits. The owners admit they failed to make an earlier hearing, citing their busy lives.

"How am I going to pay tuition? I have a payment coming up," said one employee. Another wondered how she'd pay rent, fix her car, or tell her kids.

That's why owner Dave Sobelman said he's so concerned his permits can't be renewed until after September 20th.

"The 39 of my employees that have bills to pay, that have children to feed," he explained.

At the licensing committee meeting Tuesday, the members of the Common Council approved licenses for Sobelman's at Marquette.

"They received a recommendation for renewal with a warning letter, and that will go to the Common Council at the end of the month, Sept. 20," said City Clerk Jim Owczarski.

The warning letter, stemming from a previous incident where a patron discharged his gun at the 16th and Wells Sobelman's location, is the reason Sobelman needed to attend a Licensing Committee hearing before renewing their permits. The Licensing Division tells TODAY'S TMJ4 businesses with incidents on their police report are required to go before the council to explain.

"What I have seen is individuals who did not attend a hearing," said Owczarski.

Sobelman admitted he and his wife didn't go to the July 12 hearing, which they received a letter for. He said a police officer who took their statements regarding the incident said the owners wouldn't need to attend a hearing.

Since the owners didn't go to the July 12 meeting, their permit hearing was held over until the next meeting- skipping August as the Committee doesn't meet that month. September 6 was the first meeting since then, but their licenses expired August 31.

But, Sobelman feels Alderman Bob Bauman berated his wife during the hearing, leaving the two of them and their business out to dry because of political differences.

"He was given the opportunity by the common council, they all voted in favor to approve. Because he could make the decision to keep us open for the next 14 days. He said no," explained Sobelman.

Ald. Bauman declined to be interviewed for this story.

According to the City Clerk, Ald. Bauman couldn't have helped the Sobelmans.

"There's nothing we can do, and absent a special meeting there's not provision granting it through the council either," he said.

The Sobelmans applied Tuesday for a temporary food license, which would allow them to serve food inside their establishment. It would not cover alcohol or their outdoor seating. That temporary permit needs to be approved by Ald. Bauman.

The Sobelmans face a ticket or being shut down by Milwaukee Police for remaining open, despite their lack of license.