Mr. Biggs’ owner apparently intends to relinquish interest in business

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By Emile Hallez

The owner of Mr. Biggs apparently intends to pull out of the South Jeffco entertainment center and is planning legal action to force the former owner to take back the business, a development that surfaced Feb. 18 at an unusual change-of-corporate-structure hearing before the county liquor-licensing board.

Owner Art Cormier, who faces charges related to alleged nudity at the center during a fashion show, has agreed to an immediate 15-day suspension of Mr. Biggs’ liquor license, should the business continue to be operated by Cormier or manager Larry Crook after March 20.

“The current intent is that (customers) can’t get in the building” after March 20, said lawyer Kevin Coates, who represented Cormier. “We’re giving the county what they wanted,” he said of pressure from the Sheriff’s Office, which said through an attorney that it wanted Cormier to relinquish his interest in the business.

Though it is likely Mr. Biggs’ ownership will change hands in the near future, in exactly whose it will end up is uncertain. Cormier apparently hopes to return ownership of the business to the previous owner, though a lawyer for that entity said it is no longer interested in Mr. Biggs.

After March 20, the building could be shuttered indefinitely.

“The seller has already made it very clear that (it) is not going to take the business back,” said lawyer Jeffery Weeks, who attended the hearing and said he represented Bigg City Holdings LLC. The community’s perception of the character of the business changed under the current ownership, he said. “That change was evident today. … We’re very concerned,” he said, referring to the community turnout at the hearing.

The Sheriff’s Office had prepared statements for the hearing, expressing the rationale behind its lack of support for the proposed change of corporate structure. The nature of the hearing, however, prevented the statements from being read to the roughly 50 South Jeffco residents in attendance. Testimony from community members was also not permitted, and the large volume of letters the board received from concerned locals was not formally reviewed for the hearing.

“This is very unusual. Few, if any, people attend these hearings,” said liquor-licensing board member William Skewes. “We are very concerned about the needs and desires of the community,” he added, though “we are limited in what we can do under the law. … This isn’t the right type of hearing for that.”

Since the meeting was not meant to establish a new liquor license or renew an existing one, input about the character of the business or the community’s feelings about a liquor provider in the area could not be heard. A more appropriate forum for discussion about the business’ character could come after June 12, Skewes said, when the license is up for renewal.

In the meantime, it is unlikely that alcohol will be served at Mr. Biggs after March 20.

“They have 30 days … in which to give notice of the change of ownership. And what the licensee is agreeing to do is to suspend operations at the end of that 30 days automatically. … Between now and then, if they are in violation of the liquor code, then the sheriff’s department could go in.”

The hearing was the first of its kind for the board, which had never seen such a turnout for a liquor-license hearing and had not been presented with similar circumstances at a change-of-corporate-structure meeting.

“This was new ground,” Skewes said. “We’ve never seen one like this before. It was confusing for us.”

Cormier and Crook are scheduled to appear in county court March 9 in relation to charges stemming from a Dec. 18 fashion show at Mr. Biggs. The Sheriff’s Office, which said it was conducting a routine walk-though of the business, allegedly found about 45 women, some of whom were topless and having their bodies painted, behind a curtained-off area at the entertainment center.

Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.