Denise Stinson's second hearing before the Colorado Springs liquor board was largely a civil affair.
The 51-year-old's voice wavered only briefly at the start of her presentation, as she listed plans for checking IDs and keeping books for the Tam O'Shanter Pub at 332 Garden of the Gods Road, just east of Interstate 25.
Board members made only passing mention of 25-year-old theft charges ultimately dismissed that came out in a background check when Stinson first applied for a liquor license. Stinson's answers to questions in July about those charges, a board member claimed, gave rise to concerns about her character ("Raising the bar," cover story, Sept. 6).
At the new hearing, no such concerns came out, and Stinson calmly finished speaking. Apparently, she was ready to let bygones be bygones after three months running a pub with no alcoholic beverages.
The same could not be said of everyone in a crowd of about two dozen friends, neighbors and family members who showed up in support of Stinson.
"You can see that Denise has great character," Joseph Gomez told the board when it was his turn to speak, gesturing to the other supporters. "My question is your guys' character."
Members of the crowd laughed. Minutes later, they filed to the front of the room to hug Stinson after the board complimented her on her presentation this time made with help of an attorney and voted unanimously to grant her a new license.
Eyes glistening, Stinson thanked everyone for their support.
Glenn Stinson, one of Denise Stinson's two children helping run the pub, suggested it was a fairy-tale ending.
And it nearly was. Stinson's original plan was to drive to Denver after the Oct. 19 hearing to pick up her state license, then return to Colorado Springs for her city license and open that night for a proper celebration.
But city officials said the paperwork couldn't be completed so fast, so patrons toasted the new license that night with Pepsi products.
Stinson started this week fearing she would have to endure yet another weekend of slow sales and mounting debt, but then Tuesday afternoon brought a surprise: A city liquor enforcement officer delivered the new license.
"We're getting ready to open!" she exclaimed with apparent disbelief.
Her emotions were understandable given the events of recent months. Stinson first went before the board July 20 after months running the pub with a temporary license and no problems.
When told that a background check had unearthed theft charges from 25 years before, she explained to the board that she'd forgotten them; One was tied to her ex-husband disputing a judge's order giving her the couple's car, another was for a bad check, and both had been dismissed.
Board members branded her as evasive, though, and they cited that evasiveness in voting 4-2 to deny her a permanent license.
The board then refused to reconsider that decision at an August meeting. Things only became more difficult after that. Stinson applied for a new tavern license but found out a charter school had just opened 491 feet from the Tam O'Shanter. Because of a required minimum separation of 500 feet between taverns and schools, her application was turned down.
So she applied again, this time for a hotel/restaurant license, which the board approved Oct. 19.
"I just want to get up and running, try to get my regulars back and try to save this place," she said.