|Michael Raniero loads equipment into the trailer on January 12. FTM file.|
That location did not receive their Alcoholic Beverage Control license.
Owner, Michael Raniero (Michael Howard), who had run the business previously with his family before restructuring to run it on his own, was operating on transitional alcohol license for 60 days in Cold Spring. He was granted a 30-day extension there, but didn’t complete the application, so it was withdrawn. The restaurant subsequently closed and reopened in Fort Thomas under the same name.
A slow start to their business in Fort Thomas led owners Raniero and Adam Lyle to lease more space next to their pizzeria, buy four pool tables and attempt to add a "rec room" that would help bring in new customers, according to Raniero.
In December they attempted to obtain a retail malt beverage drink license that would allow them to sell beer and wine at that location. The license application was heard at a public hearing at the Fort Thomas City Building and after being considered by the city of Fort Thomas, was denied.
On December 19, Raniero told Fort Thomas Matters that without the ability to sell alcohol, their business would not survive.
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As Fort Thomas Matters interviewed Raniero Thursday, industrial refrigerators were being moved out to a trailer, thousands of dollars of newly bought pool tables were sold privately and pictures were being taken down from inside the restaurant. Raniero, who said he blames the city for the demise of his pizza restaurant and intends to file a lawsuit against the city, was wearing a t-shirt that he had made the night before which read: "Ft. Thomas - Small Business Killer."
|Michael Raniero. FTM file.|
In a letter obtained by Fort Thomas Matters from the city of Fort Thomas sent to the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and signed by local official, Jennifer Machesney, the city described the reasons for the application's denial because:
"(Raniero's) does not comply with all regulations of the City of Fort Thomas...specifically (the ordinance) which states that a license may be refused by the local administrator 'for any reason which he, in the exercise of sound discretion, may deem sufficient."
Further, the letter gives four specific examples for the local denial. The following are excerpts from the letter:
1) Examination of background checks obtained by members of (Raniero's), which show extensive criminal records, including, but not limited to: weapons charges, burglary charges and one active warrant.
2) Conversations with officials and information obtrained through an open records request, which outline the past business practices of a member of (Raniero's). These practices include sales of alcohol to minors and noncompliance with other State ABC laws.
3) A petition received on December 16, 2016 from adjacent property owners stating their opposition to the issuance of a license to (Raniero's).
4) Noncompliance with NFPA Life Safety Codes, as outlined by the Fort Thomas Fire Department.
Raniero said that there are explanations for all of reasons outlined by the city of Fort Thomas and that many of the charges found in the background checks were made available to the local ABC office, which granted him a liquor license previously at his location in Cold Spring, Kentucky.
"The city of Fort Thomas lied to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. It's just like applying for a job with past charges that have been dismissed, but they still try and use it against you," he said.
Raniero said that the weapons charge occurred when he was 18-years old while in Southgate, Kentucky and that he, now 30, has since been granted his concealed carry license which demonstrates that that charge should not have been considered.
He said that the burglary charge occurred during a family dispute at the previous Raniero's in Cold Spring, which had previously been a family business venture. "I forced my way into the restaurant and I could have sued the city of Cold Spring over it. The judge politely asked myself and my parents to dismiss the case without prejudice, which I agreed to."
Raniero said the active warrant dealt with his business partner, Lyle, who bought a boat in another state and simply forgot to get it registered in Kentucky.
"As far as serving alcohol to underage people, I don't know where they came up with that information. It's just highly wrong. I saw a guy on Fort Thomas Matters comments section say that as well, but he's definitely lying as well," he said.
As previously reported on Fort Thomas Matters and included in the denial letter, was the petition of ten residents on Overlook Drive, which adjoins the Fort Thomas Plaza.
RELATED: Raniero's Pizzeria Applies for Alcohol License (December 2016)
That petition, in part read: "We adamantly oppose any alcohol or beer sales in the pool hall in Fort Thomas Plaza. We are concerned about the type of clientele that this will bring to our community."
Raniero said he also collected signatures from residents on the same street as part of his application process.
The one reason for denial that Raniero does not dispute was the noncompliance with the Life Safety Codes.
"Thank God I didn't put the emergency exits on the doors like they wanted me to, because that would have been another $500 I would have soaked into the business and the city had no intentions on giving me my beer license," he said.
Regardless of what has or has not occurred in the past, the license was not granted and a business has closed. There has been some high profile developments and real estate sales in Fort Thomas, including two properties within the Midway Business District and the potential impending purchase of the VA Homes. The city is also going through visioning process that that could set the city up for the years to come.
There have also been some high profile business closures in Fort Thomas over the last year, but by all accounts, the businesses surrounding Raniero's in the Fort Thomas Plaza are all doing well. The plaza itself is at its highest occupancy rate in years. That aside, Raniero is convinced if he were granted the liquor license, he'd still be in business.
"The city put a bad look on our family name. We're going to close up and take legal action as far as we can and I believe we have a strong case here."
Fort Thomas Matters reached out to the city of Fort Thomas for comment. City officials pointed to their reasoning for the denial within the public records, but declined to comment further.