Two Madison County men each face 109 counts of unlawful transaction with a minor after they allegedly allowed alcohol to be provided on unlicensed premises in downtown Richmond.
Jonathan D. Varney, 34, and Marion Marshall “Robbie” Robinson, 67, also were charged Saturday by a state Alcoholic Beverage Control agent with trafficking in alcohol without a license. It’s unclear from court documents whether alcohol was sold.
The ABC agent, working in cooperation with local law enforcement, arrested Varney after executing a search warrant and finding the minors inside College Station, a former bar and nightclub at 110 South Second Street near Eastern Kentucky University.
College Station’s alcohol licenses were surrendered in March 2015, and its municipal business license was revoked in July 2015, but Richmond police said Robinson and Varney rented the building to fraternities and sororities to have parties.
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ABC, Richmond police and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office had been investigating College Station for about two months before executing the search warrant.
According to court records, Varney, “acting as a leasee to Sigma Chi” fraternity, leased the building to an unidentified 20-year-old and “permitted alcohol to be provided by bartenders” who were 16 and 20 years old.
Robinson, who owns the building, and Varney, who has a key to the office, were present, Richmond police said. Varney told authorities “that he thought he was OK since he had a lease,” according to a court record. Varney also told authorities that he was inside the building “to make sure they didn’t tear the place down.”
Police said about 150 people were present, and 109 were identified as being younger than 21. Each of the 109 was cited for possession of alcohol; most have district court appearances scheduled for May 16.
The 20-year-old who rented the building for his fraternity was cited for possession of alcohol by a minor and assisting minors in obtaining alcoholic beverages, Richmond police said.
Lexington attorney John Tackett, who represents Varney, said he “takes the allegations very seriously. However, there is a second side to the story, and we will be here to present that to the court when the time comes. That’s all I can say right now.”
College Station LLC began in August 2013 but then dissolved as a business in September 2014, according to the Kentucky Secretary of State website.
College Station has a history of violations, according to a March 2015 settlement agreement with ABC and voluntary revocation of its license to sell beer and a license to sell “quota retail drink.”
The violations, which occurred in 2013 and 2014, included that College Station advertised allowing minors to enter and remain on the premises; employed a person younger than 20; sales to minors; tax delinquency; and having disorderly premises where “multiple incidents of physical assaults and violent behavior took place.”