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Fifty Lakes: Council member's husband banned from bar - She says joking comment was taken wrong way

A Fifty Lakes resident has been banned from the 50 Lakes Bar and Bottle Shop after allegedly threatening the liquor manager, according to discussion at a city council meeting.

Steve Maeger, liquor manager since spring 2017, filed an incident report Jan. 26 with the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department after he said patron Tom Steffens threatened to take him outside and beat him up.

According to Mayor Tim Anick's account of the situation at the Tuesday, Feb. 13, city council meeting, Steffen told Maeger there's a long line of people who would like to beat him up as well, though that information is not in the police report. The report says Anick and Maeger wanted Steffen "trespassed from the bar," as Anick said Maeger expressed concern for his safety leaving the bar the night of the alleged incident.

Steffen later received a trespass notice prohibiting him from entering the bar without permission of the manager for 30 days. Violation of the order could result in criminal trespass prosecution.

Council member Linda Steffen - Tom Steffen's wife - left her council seat at the Feb. 13 meeting and addressed council members as a private citizen, asking them to rescind the trespass order, as Maeger's account of what happened Jan. 26 was inaccurate.

"I can unequivocally say that it was a joking comment unfortunately taken the wrong way," Linda Steffen said. "My husband didn't say, 'I want to take you outside.' He said, 'You should be taken outside,' and that's a figure of speech. ... In my mind, this was just a whole situation that got blown out of proportion, and I believe that the action taken by the mayor and the bar manager in involving the sheriff with a formal trespass order was not warranted in this situation."

Steffen added that Maeger himself added the part about there being a long line of people who also wanted to beat him up.

But council member Jay Weinmann, liquor liaison, said Tom Steffen agreed with Maeger's comment.

Weinmann added: "I think this is up to (Maeger). When he feels comfortable, he and Tom (Steffen) can have a conversation about this and come to some sort of conclusion. I don't think we as council can force him to have someone in the bar before he feels comfortable having that person back in the bar."

Resident Jackie Mitchell said she was at the bar that night and corroborated Linda Steffen's story, adding later at the open forum that she likes Maeger but believes certain council members are making him believe residents are against him. Mitchell also said Weinmann is not the right person to be the council liaison to the bar/liquor store.

"Listening to you tonight, you don't know what's going on," Mitchell said to Weinmann. "I think you should be removed ... and I think things would change."

Lorrie Anderson, a friend of the Steffens, said she and her group of friends - who normally frequent the bar - have decided not to spend any more money there until this situation is remedied.

The fact that Maeger went straight to the sheriff instead of talking to Tom Steffen was also brought up. But Anick said the situation was handled properly.

"If any employee - I don't care what employee it is - feels that they're threatened for their safety, I think this council - or me as personnel manager - that we need to put it in the proper hands," Anick said.

Weinmann and Anick told Linda Steffen that Maeger would like to sit down and talk with her husband to sort this out. She said OK.

Maeger was not at the Feb. 13 council meeting.

Theresa Bourke

I started at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and the Brainerd School District. I follow city and school board officials as they make important decisions for residents and students and decide how to spend taxpayer dollars. I look for feature story ideas among those I meet and enjoy, more than anything, helping individuals tell their stories and show what makes them unique.

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