Bad checks buy infamy at Brooklyn Park tavern

October 30, 1992|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

Write a bad check at Doc & Annie's, and you'll get a taste of fame. Michael "Doc" King will see to it.

The co-owner of the Brooklyn Park tavern might never get his money back, but he has his own kind of revenge.

It's a roadside sign with changeable letters. On the upper tier it reads "Doc & Annie's," as it has for more than a decade. But below that, there's apt to be a personal message from Mr. King.

These days, it's "Jackie McLung writes bad checks."

This particular bar patron did, in fact, write three of them totaling $95. And Mr. King wants it known to everyone driving the busy commercial stretch of Ritchie High- way.

For four years, Mr. King has gotten back at a dozen patrons who stuck him for a bar tab or rent on an upstairs room by embarrassing them publicly.

For a month, he'd display their name, a plea to "pay your bill," and the amount.

"It just came to me," he says. "I have a devious mind."

"He has a warped sense of humor," adds his partner, Kathleen "Annie" Smith.

Though none of Mr. King's notorious "deadbeats" has ever come through with the cash, and he has no recourse for collecting liquor tabs, the public notices have brought him a deep sense of satisfaction.

"It is worth it to me," he says. "There's a lot of traffic coming down Ritchie Highway."

"You kind of feel like you had the last word," adds Ms. Smith.

Mr. King's messages have become a standing joke with residents from the working-class neighborhood who frequent the tavern for drinks or a home-style lunch.

"People come in and say, 'Doc, can I write a check?' " Ms. Smith says.

Adds Mr. King, "If someone is more than a couple months late, they'll call me and say, 'Please don't put my name up in lights.' "

Mr. King assumes people see their names.

"They can't miss it. Someone tells them. They say, 'Hey, you got your name up at Doc & Annie's.' "

But only one man let him know it for sure. When a former tenant saw his name, after leaving Mr. King in the lurch for rent on one of seven lease-by-the-week rooms, the tenant returned with threats to either sue or burn the place down.

OC The next night, somebody hurled bricks through the tavern's win

dows.

Mr. King installed metal grates over the windows.

So what could he be thinking, after all the grief, by continuing to let patrons run tabs, by giving them breaks on rent, acting like their personal banker?

Mr. King shrugs. "It just doesn't pay to be a nice guy," he says. But he adds, with an air of resignation, "You hate to say 'No.' You have a little bit of heart. . . ."

"You get to know these guys," Ms. Smith picks up as her partner trails off.

"Even with all this trouble,we're still good guys," Mr. King finishes.

Mr. King says he cashed checks for Jackie McClung -- Mr. King's sign leaves out the second "C" -- in late July and early August, only because the body and fender repairman was a friend of a friend.

Several weeks later, the bank returned the checks, stamped "post no debit." The account had been closed.

Mr. King quickly became fed up with bureaucracy that sent him from a District Court commissioner to the bank in search of information about the elusive Mr. McClung, whose phone had been disconnected.

"He can throw a check at me, and I have to go through all the legwork?" Mr. King asks. "They want me to do everything but arrest him. That kind of upset me, so I climbed up the ladder and put it out on Ritchie."

And there it will stay, he says,until Mr. McClung makes good on the checks -- which Mr. King says he'd be glad to announce on the sign.

But he's not counting on it.

"I doubt if I'll get it," he says. "If I do, that's great. If I don't, that'spart of life."

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