The city of Fridley revoked the liquor license for Halo’s Restaurant Bar and Vero’s Banquet Hall Monday, Aug. 23, citing multiple public safety incidents in the short span the venue has been open.
Halo’s Restaurant Bar and Vero’s Banquet Hall opened in the fall of 2020 at 1040 Osborne Road NE, Fridley. The facility is both a Latin-American restaurant and an event center.
Since the business opened, public safety officers have responded to multiple fights, assaults, a shooting, urination in the parking lot, drinking in the parking lot and frequent reports that the business remained open past the 1 a.m. closing time required by the business’s liquor license, according to Fridley Deputy Director of Public Safety Ryan George.
Angel Morocho-Carchi applied for an on-sale intoxicating liquor license for Halo’s Restaurant Bar and Vero’s Banquet Hall back in October 2020.
Morocho-Carchi reportedly had never possessed an on-sale intoxicating liquor license, but had managed other restaurants in the past, George said.
A public hearing was held on Oct. 26, 2020, to consider the approval of the conditional on-sale intoxicating liquor license. During the hearing, concerns were expressed about Morocho-Carchi’s possible intent to run a nightclub operation at the venue after he advertised a 21+-ticketed Halloween 2020 event. In promotional material for the event, the venue was advertised as “Club Halo’s.”
Morocho-Carchi responded during the hearing and said that Halo’s Restaurant Bar and Vero’s Banquet Hall would not be run as a nightclub. Ultimately, he chose to cancel the Halloween event.
The City Council approved the liquor license Nov. 9, 2020. The license was later renewed for the 2021-2022 license period, which runs May 1, 2021, to April 30, 2022.
The license included conditions that the operation close by 1 a.m. every day and must adhere to specific requirements to ensure good conduct from patrons and staff. The business was also barred from cannot advertising itself as a “nightclub” or hosting events common to such a venue at which liquor would be sold, and specific drink promotions are prohibited, such as advertisements for free drinks or contests or games that encourage binge-drinking, George said.
Not long after the opening of Halo’s Restaurant Bar and Vero’s Banquet Hall, public safety incidents began to occur on a regular basis.
When issues began to escalate at the business, multiple attempts were made by Fridley city staff to connect with Morocho-Carchi, but he had ceased all communication, George said.
After Morocho-Carchi was finally contacted, he and his attorney allegedly admitted on July 30 that he had stepped aside from the business in early May for personal reasons, George said.
George said that put Halo’s Restaurant Bar and Vero’s Banquet Hall in violation of city code, which prohibits transferring liquor licenses from one person to another.
“Since Mr. Morocho-Carchi was the sole licensee, Halo’s did not possess a valid liquor license after his voluntary departure from the business,” George said in a City Council report.
Morocho-Carchi said that in his absence, family members and employees had stepped in to run Halo’s Restaurant Bar and Vero’s Banquet Hall, despite having no liquor license.
George said that due to the violations of the liquor license conditions and Fridley city code — eight violations in total — the city could revoke the liquor license granted to Morocho-Carchi.
“The ownership and management of Halo’s has not maintained control of security measures, and appears unable to successfully operate a safe and secure environment for the dispensing of alcohol,” George said. “Allowing Angel Morocho-Carchi to maintain Halo’s on-sale intoxicating liquor license would permit the continuation of a significant risk to public health and safety.”
“I’m very sad to see the way things transpired throughout the process of owning a liquor license,” Morocho-Carchi told the City Council Aug. 23. “These are not my values or missions I set forth. ... My purpose was to have a lovely and welcoming business here in Fridley. Unfortunately some things that [were] setbacks in my personal life kind of affected how I ran the business. I mean, I know I shouldn’t have let it affect me, but it did, and unfortunately, like I said, I had some of the family members kind of step in, and it didn’t go the way I thought it was going to go. ... I’m sorry for the things that transpired.”
Morocho-Carchi said that he tried to handle the public safety concerns by letting go of his security team and hiring a new one. “They weren’t doing what they were supposed to do,” he said.
City Council Member Ann Bolkcom asked Morocho-Carchi if he was aware of all the public safety incidents occurring at his business.
“A lot of things went on here,” Bolkcom said. “Terrible things, actually. Very concerning things, including damage to personal property at the business next to you. Kind of huge things.”
Morocho-Carchi said it was all due to issues with his security staff.
Morocho-Carchi’s role at Halo’s Restaurant Bar and Vero’s Banquet Hall was also questioned. At the Aug. 23 meeting, he introduced himself as a “co-owner” of the restaurant but later said he wasn’t an “owner” and that his father was. It was later determined that his role was manager of the business.
Morocho-Carchi’s attorney John Akwuba asked the City Council to give Morocho-Carchi a “second chance” and not revoke the on-sale intoxicating liquor license due to the fact that the business has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and to factor in the personal issues Morocho-Carchi experienced.
Akwuba said Morocho-Carchi’s father intends to enact a number of changes with the business if given a “second chance” to ensure the establishment is safe, including hiring more staff and off-duty police officers for security and adding more cameras throughout the business.
“I’m appalled that nothing has been done,” Bolkcom said, expressing disappointment that Morocho-Carchi hasn’t done more to address the public safety issues in a timely manner. “I mean this has been going on for 10 months. It has never been without some issues there.”
“I’m not necessarily convinced things are going to change,” Council Member Tom Tillberry said.
Ultimately the City Council was not swayed by Akwuba’s argument or Morocho-Carchi’s apologies and unanimously voted to revoke Halo’s Restaurant Bar and Vero’s Banquet Hall’s liquor license.