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West Fargo bar owner says liquor license was denied due to her race

Published: Jun. 20, 2019 at 10:44 PM CDT
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Some controversy is brewing in West Fargo over a liquor license that was not renewed.

The city said the bar violated noise-related ordinances, yet the owner of the Awake Lounge claims her license was denied due to her and her customers’ race.

Ritchell Aboah said she opened the Awake Lounge just off 13th Ave. last year as a new party spot for West Fargo. It’s been hard staying in business.

“We were here this winter and it was dead. When I tell you one car was not outside, we had to dip into our personal working money to pay bills,” Aboah said from inside her lounge.

That’s not at all, Aboah’s pointing the finger at the city.

“Why is this such a problem?” she said.

The West Fargo Liquor Control Board has denied renewing her license.

In November, the lounge’s license was suspended for two weeks after residents complained the noise kept them up at night.

Aboah pleaded guilty to hosting noisy parties and gathering, according to a letter submitted to the liquor control board by the city attorney.

This week, the board decided not to renew her license for the same reason.

“This is a bar, I [applied] for a bar that's supposed to have music. A bar as a whole has some type of music,” Aboah said.

She said the decision regarding her license was made because she’s African-America adding that her customers were harassed by police.

“ [A] blind person can tell that this is a racial situation. They do not want us here,” Aboah said. ”They do not want us here.”

The city of West Fargo told Valley News Live they follow a process for renewing licenses and Aboah had violated several city ordinances related to noise complaints.

Liquor licenses at West Fargo businesses are renewed each year as they go from July 1st to June 30th.

Aboah said she’s done several things to reduce the noise, including removing some speakers.

Despite her efforts, unless she and the city can reach some common ground enabling her to regain her liquor license, she won’t be able to operate.

According to the city of West Fargo, Awake Lounge can appeal the liquor control board’s decision and Aboah said she plans to do so immediately.