RAS Ethiopian Restaurant, Bar and Lounge, 2516 W. Seventh St., had its liquor and entertainment licenses revoked by the Saint Paul City Council on June 15 due to repeated license violations.

Supporters of the business filled part of the council chambers hoping to testify on behalf of owner Zinash Amde. However, because Amde missed city deadlines for hearings before the council or an administrative law judge, the window for those hearings had closed.

Assistant City Attorney Adam Niblick said Amde would have to go to the Minnesota Court of Appeals to reinstate the licenses.

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Council members briefly discussed the fact that they had no options in the case. “What we can do is vote and that’s really it,” said council member Mitra Jalali.

The city’s Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) requested an “upward departure” from its penalty matrix in calling for revocation due to a series of past license violations at RAS.

RAS attorney Brian Alton asked in a letter that the City Council send the matter to a hearing officer. “RAS disputes the facts underlying the violation and a hearing should be held to present evidence and argument,” Alton wrote.

RAS, which has operated in Highland Park for about 15 years, was fined by the city for license violations in April 2021 and this past March. While there has been a longstanding dispute over the bar’s parking area, other license violations have also occurred. DSI said RAS failed to provide security footage to police for incidents in 2014, 2015 and 2019. Assaults and after-hour parties are among past complaints.

The latest city action in March followed a January 21 incident when a 19-year-old woman was found outside of RAS bleeding from a cut to the head. Police reportedly were not allowed into the business right away and did not promptly receive a videotape of what took place inside. When the video was received days later, the footage reportedly only began after the alleged assault was believed to have taken place.

A review of the video from that incident revealed nine separate license violations, including alcohol served to a 15-year-old.

The council action does not affect any food service licenses. Those are issued by the state.

— Jane McClure

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