took the first hour of Thursday’s Porter County Alcohol Board Commission
meeting to state its case for an alcohol permit at the Indiana Dunes State
Park Pavilion and to address concerns the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco
Commission has regarding the Partners’ application.
application request back to the local ABC, ITC Director David Cook’s letter
to the ABC directed the board’s attention the fact that principal and
Valparaiso businessman Chuck Williams claims to be the sole owner of the
LLC, while he checked off on his application that he holds over 60 percent
interest in the LLC and another box indicating the LLC has over 41 percent
Williams was joined
by fellow principal Thomas Collins, vice-president of Luke Oil and one of
the owners of County Line Orchard, and Partners’ attorney Melissa Coxey of
the Indianapolis law firm Bose McKinney & Evans.
Coxey first asked
Williams to explain how the concept for Pavilion Partners came about.
Williams said he was on a family vacation in Hawaii in 2010 when he saw a
historic building recently renovated that reminded him of the Dunes
Pavilion. He spoke with members of the Indiana Department of Natural
Resources a few months later about what it would be required if someone
wanted to renovate the pavilion and learned that there would need to be a
Request for Proposals for a private/public partnership.
Director of State Parks Gary Miller drafted a prospectus in November 2011,
close to the same time the Indiana legislature proposed and eventually
passed a bill authored by State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, allowing
private vendors to sell alcohol at dining facilities in state parks.
The DNR had 18
requests for the prospectus and two responses. Williams said he had
subsequent interviews with the DNR and a lease was signed in February this
Williams in his
testimony said he “did not lobby to get the alcohol bill” passed, nor did he
pay anyone to lobby for him. To his knowledge the bill had been lobbied for
by the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission,
specifically by its executive director Lorelei Weimer, he said.
appointed to the PCCRVC by the County Commissioners in 2013, a year after
the state approved alcohol for the pavilion.
Weimer, who was
given an affidavit by Coxey to speak during the hearing, later said a
“destination audit” done in 2005 listed the renovation of the pavilion as a
project with potential. Representatives from both the Indiana and Illinois
Restaurant Association cautioned the PCCRVC that a restaurateur would “in no
way invest dollars if alcohol is not allowed,” which is why the tourism
bureau advocated for legislators to change the law, Weimer said.
Williams had told
the board at one point, “There’s no possible way in today’s economic climate
you can have a restaurant without a liquor license.”
denied lobbying for Senate Bill 515, which allows liquor to be sold within
100 feet of the pavilion and the parking area, but acknowledged he and the
DNR talked with legislators about the change after the bill had been the
ABC member Ralph
Levi asked Williams to talk about the checked boxes concerning ownership on
the application. The ABC did not have a copy of the permit application form
from the ATC at its June 22 meeting and were unaware of the problem.
“It really made
this board look bad,” said Levi.
Williams stated he
is the sole owner of Pavilion Partners LLC and therefore no other names were
listed under ownership on the application. A “mistake was made” in checking
yes on the question about out-of-state ownership when it “should have been
no,” Williams said.
application was submitted hours before the meeting Thursday, which had the
box changed to no and again listed Williams as the sole owner. An extra copy
was made for the public to view out in the lobby of the Expo Center.
that there are two different entities. There is Pavilion Partners LLC, which
submitted the alcohol permit application, and that is different from
“Pavilion Partners Management,” the capital investment firm for the pavilion
improvements made up of different investors.
When asked who the
other investors are, Williams answered Collins and Ryan Richardson, another
operator of County Line Orchard. One investor, Peter Kaiafas, was “scared
off” by threats to boycott his business on social media, Williams added.
difference, the new application names “Kate Grace LLC” as a business that
Williams had an interest in which still has a permit from the ATC to sell
alcohol. The doing-business-as name was the Hookah Lounge in Valparaiso and
is currently in escrow, Williams said.
Levi and board
member Rudy Sutton then pressed with questions on a law passed this year
allowing alcohol to be sold within 100 feet of the pavilion and parking
area. Williams said that in order to do that, a vendor would need to obtain
a temporary permit from both the DNR and the ATC.
Part of the law
describes an “inn” defined as a place that has 20 rooms, but Levi said he
could not see how this relates to Pavilion Partners since it’s not operating
an inn, nor does the law say that alcohol is banned “in the sand.”
Coxey said the law
does reference, in a subsection, a current law that decrees alcohol on
state-owned beaches is illegal and that the law specifically mentions Dunes
But there’s still
another question Levi said, which was asked in many of the 114 letters he’s
received -- who is going to be there to make sure alcohol doesn’t make it to
the beach or that no one is over served?
“We would need to
pay for (extra security),” Williams told him. “I’m responsible to maintain
alcohol within the confines.”
The lease agreement
contains a hold-harmless agreement for the DNR and Pavilion Partners is
insured for up to $2 million, Williams said.
DNR Director speaks
There are three
agencies that enforce the law on park premises -- County police, state
conservation officers and excise police, said Cameron Clark, Director of the
Clark was given an
affidavit by Coxey to give testimony, mainly to give insight on where in the
state parks alcohol is allowed and why the DNR would benefit from the
partnership. Also, to verify that Williams’ statements match with the DNR’s
knowledge of the facts.
In all, there are
seven inns within the state park system that are permitted by the DNR to
sell alcohol, he said.
Alcohol was banned
in 1990 from the Dunes State Park because of reported problems with gang
members, Clark said, but he believes the park capacity has changed in 25
Dunes State Park
has since done away with 1,000 parking spaces, which helps “keep traffic
flow under control,” Clark said.
with Pavilion Partners is desirable to the DNR because only 70 percent of
the state park system is self-sustaining, Clark said. “When we get an
opportunity to increase our revenues by gate entrance fees for an entire
year that helps us fund other parks that are not self-sustaining.”
Clark said that the
bad shape the Pavilion was in was “an embarrassment to the DNR,” with cracks
in the pavement, leaks in the roof and out-of-date bathroom facilities.
The DNR sought a
private/public partnership since it felt it could not fund rehabbing the
pavilion, Clark said. Notice about the prospectus and RFP were not done in
shadow, Clark said, in that at least five newspapers around the state had
written about it.
are considered based on “what kind of ingredients are in the proposal, rent
and benefits to DNR,” said Clark.