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Draft Resolution at Donnelly's

It's back to business — and beer — as usual for Donnelly's Sports Pub & Grill inside Lava Lanes, after penalties handed down from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission stopped the bar from serving alcohol most of last week.

A change in ownership has allowed the Medford bowling alley bar out from under the Feb. 23 OLCC cancellation of its liquor license, which cited four liquor violations from 2007 to 2009 in which the bar's staff served alcohol to minors on three of the occasions.

The license was held by Donnelly's manager Kathryn Kennedy, as well as founder and former owner Ric Donnelly, who signed ownership of bar and bowling alley over to the building's owner, Bret Breeze of Medford, Friday afternoon.

"After about an hour and a half meeting, we came to the conclusion that this was the best thing for our customers and our employees," Donnelly said. "I didn't actually sell the business, I actually lost the business ... I got no cash."

Without a liquor license, Donnelly was in conflict with his Oregon Lottery contract, and his lease agreement with Breeze, and he was losing money fast, he said.

After the OLCC revoked the bar's license, and refused to renew a temporary license for Donnelly or Kennedy, Breeze issued Donnelly a notice of default — requiring that he remedy the situation within 30 days by getting his license back, or face eviction.

Donnelly appealed the OLCC ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals, but he knew that would take longer than 30 days, and he didn't want to see his 11-year-old business vanish.

"What I didn't want was the 60 or so employees I have to be without a job, or my over 1,000 league bowlers with nowhere to bowl," Donnelly said. "As bad as it is for me, it's good for a lot of other people."

Donnelly, who is not allowed in his old bar, said he will stick around and help new management familiarize itself with the building and business; then, he's going after the OLCC.

"I'll do what I have to do legally against them," Donnelly said. "Bottom line is what OLCC has done is wrong."

In addition to his appeal with the state, Donnelly said that he will likely look for retribution from the liquor commission.

Donnelly said, he wasn't notified about his liquor license cancellation from the OLCC until about 4 p.m. on Fri., Feb. 25. The cancellation took effect three days later, at 7 a.m., Mon. Feb 28.

Regardless, Donnelly's attorney finished the appeal over the weekend, and submitted it to the OLCC Monday afternoon, but it was denied; too late. In accordance with OLCC guidelines, an appeal of license cancellation must be filed before the cancellation takes effect.

"When did they give me time to file that appeal? They gave me zero time actually," Donnelly said.

"I'll be spending lots of time talking to attorneys and lawyers, and figuring where this needs to go legally against this organization," Donnelly said. "Its sad that a government agency can do this, that they can take my business, and my livelihood away from me just like that."

Breeze commended Donnelly for his "incredible class," as he has handled the situation.

"He is doing everything he can to make this transition as smooth as possible," Breeze said.

Donnelly, who said thinking about what has unfolded in the last week sometimes gets him emotional, doesn't know if he'll ever coming back into the picture at his former business; he wouldn't bet on it, he said.

"There is a great future for Lava Lanes and Donnelly's in Medford, it just will be without me," he said.

Kevin Avkins, a Donnelly's Sports Bar & Grill regular, polishes off a beer Saturday. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch