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Stucci's awarded liquor license

Stucci's Italian Food & Spirits came away from Monday night's City Council meeting as the winner of a competition for a city-issued liquor license.

Council members voted 4-1 to grant the new restaurant at 417 Second St. the city's last available license in apparent sympathy for the owners who assumed the license would automatically stay with the building.

In approving Stucci's application for the Class B liquor and Class B beer license, the council denied three other businesses' requests for the only Class B license available at this time.

The Nova restaurant at 236 Coulee Road and Café La Poste at 225 Locust St. also were worthy candidates for the license, council members indicated. City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick said Darla's Uptown Grill, located in the Prairie View Center on Carmichael Road at County UU, wasn't eligible for the license because it owes the city delinquent water and sewer connection charges.

The council postponed a decision on the liquor license issue at its April 17 meeting because the owners of Stucci's hadn't filed a proper application.

Sharon Horne-Ellstrom, a 50-percent owner of the company that is operating the restaurant, had applied for the license as an individual. Munkittrick said the entity that owns the restaurant, Sharon Horne-Ellstrom LLC, needed to hold the license under state law.

Horne's partners in the restaurant are Gary Stucci and his son Rocci.

The Horne family owns the building that Stucci's Italian Food & Spirits is located in.

The previous tenant of the space, the Old World Bake Shop, was forced to surrender its liquor license to the city when owner Jeff Gorman filed for bankruptcy last spring.

According to Barry Lundeen, attorney for Horne-Ellstrom and the Stuccis, the partners in the new restaurant assumed the city would automatically issue a liquor license to the new occupant of the space.

Lundeen said last month that the building had had a license since the 1950s when John Rauchnot operated a restaurant there.

Following last month's meeting, Sharon Horne-Ellstrom LLC submitted a proper application for a liquor license for Stucci's Italian Food & Spirits.

Monday night, Munkittrick reminded council members of the factors laid out in the Municipal Code for them to consider in granting liquor licenses. They include the job creation, tax base expansion, the availability of parking and city services, any adverse impacts on the neighborhood and other relevant criteria.

Munkittrick said the council could grant the license to one of the eligible applicants or decide not to issue a license at this time. She said their decision should be based on what was in the best interest of the city.

Gary Stucci, a retired 3M Co. employee, told the council that his restaurant was the kind of place a family could come to for dinner and leave with some money left in their pockets.

"I have two goals for people that come to my place," Stucci said, "that they leave full, and they leave happy."

He said his six children are employed at the restaurant - two full-time and four part-time. His son Rocci Stucci is the manager.

Alderman Paul Radermacher moved to issue a liquor license to Sharon Horne-Ellstrom LLC and the motion was seconded by Alderman Randy Morrissette II.

In the discussion that followed, Council President Scot O'Malley said he would abstain from the vote because the council should have chosen between the two viable applications that it had at the April 17 meeting.

"We look bad no matter what we do here," O'Malley said.

Newly elected Alderman Lee Wyland said the council might be setting up Stucci's for failure by denying the restaurant a liquor license.

Alderwoman Carah Koch said she thought it was in the best interest of the city to have a successful restaurant in the building at 417 Second St.

Radermacher agreed with Koch and noted that there had been a liquor license at the building for more than 50 years.

Morrissette said he liked the fact that Stucci's is a family-oriented business.

Alderman Dennis O'Connell sided with O'Malley, saying he was uncomfortable issuing the available license to any business at this point.

Radermacher, Morrissette, Koch and Wyland voted to grant Sharon Horne-Ellstrom LLC the license. O'Connell opposed the action and O'Malley didn't vote.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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