Committee recommends renewing liquor license
By Scott Bellile
The New London Finance and Personnel Committee recommended the city renew a liquor license for a bartender whose history of drug and alcohol offences concerned the police chief.
Expressing willingness to give 32-year-old Bree-Ann Leone of New London a second chance, the committee recommended the New London City Council renew her liquor license by a 4-1 vote on June 7, after a half-hour of debate. The renewal is set to appear before the council for final approval Tuesday, June 13.
Voting yes were Dave Morack, John Faucher, Mike Barrington and Tom O’Connell. Mary Tate voted no.
“You realize that you are definitely going to be watched and you’re getting a chance,” Barrington warned Leone. “We’re going to be looking.”
“No, it’s no problem,” said Leone, a bartender at C&R Waterfront, 408 W. North Water St. “I’m not afraid of that at all. I understand what is going on here.”
New London Police Chief Jeff Schlueter denied Leone’s license application based on several drug- and alcohol-related charges filed in 2010 and 2017. Leone opted to appeal to the finance committee, which has the authority to hear an applicant’s appeal and then make a recommendation to the city council to reverse the police chief’s decision.
Schlueter reached his decision by following a “NLPD Bartender’s License Approval Guidelines” flowchart written by former New London Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson. Schlueter decided that because Leone was found guilty of alcohol misuse and drug violations within the last 10 years and, in his opinion, has not shown reformation due to two convictions this past April, her license should not be renewed.
“I have to agree with Jeff,” Tate said. “When you get through with all of your counseling and all of the stuff, you can always come back here and try again, but as of right now, I don’t think it’s a good idea to approve.”
According to court records, Leone’s drug- and alcohol-related convictions include:
• April 7: Misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) in Waupaca County. The offense occurred in December 2015.
• April 7: Misdemeanor operating while intoxicated-second offense in Waupaca County. The charge stemmed from a Nov. 18 incident.
• 2010: Felony delivery of non-narcotics and misdemeanor possession of marijuana in Waushara County. She was placed on three and two years of probation, respectively, for the convictions. The offenses occurred in September 2009.
• 2010: Misdemeanor possession of an illegally obtained prescription in Waushara County. A felony charge of delivery of marijuana was dismissed but read in to the record for sentencing purposes. The offenses occurred in August 2009.
During last week’s appeal, Leone told the committee she made poor choices in the past but is correcting them. She participates in the court-ordered Safe Streets Treatment Options Program and undergoes further counseling. She attends college, where last semester she made the dean’s list.
“I took these experiences in learning to practice and I’m trying hard to better my life and my children’s and also be a good role model for them,” she said.
C&R Waterfront owner Chong Hanamann vouched for Leone, calling her trustworthy and responsible. C&R Waterfront’s small staff would be dealt a setback if Leone became ineligible to work, Hanamann said.
Hanamann said she operates her bar under strict rules that Leone abides by. Hanamann said she can sleep at night knowing her business is in Leone’s hands.
Leone added: “I don’t steal. I don’t lie. I haven’t had any marks against my bartending records for serving minors or being open past when we’re supposed to be. And also I’m not allowed to drink behind bar, and I haven’t drank behind the bar because of such rule.”
Faucher, a C&R Waterfront patron, said he observes too many bartenders at other New London establishments do things on the job “that would really make you lay awake in bed at night.” He said he has witnessed firsthand that this is not the case with Leone.
“I see what goes on with the other bartenders,” Faucher said of those working elsewhere. “Maybe they’ve got a clean record, maybe they didn’t get caught, [but] I see them shaking dice, I see them feeding people shots that can’t walk even from the bathroom to their stool. I frequent the bar that you [Leone] work at. I’ve never seen that when you’re working there, and I know that Chong … runs a pretty tight ship. When I see bartenders that work for her not running a tight ship, I’m going to let her know.”
Faucher asked for special conditions on Leone’s license that would allow her no leeway if she falls out of line. Schlueter offered to perform a background check on her in six months and report to the committee if he finds another offence, to which the committee agreed before voting to recommended her license renewal to the city council.