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Judge Gives West Hartford Injunctive Relief Against Los Imperios

Los Imperios, 904 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

A Hartford Superior Court judge ruled Monday that West Hartford can impose a fine of $250 if Los Imperios violates an ordinance pertaining to bottle service, and the attorney for the establishment says his client will comply with the judge’s order.

Activity at Los Imperios, at 904 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford, has blamed for neighborhood disturbances and the business has also been subject to a large number of zoning infractions. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A judge granted West Hartford injunctive relief against Los Imperios, located at 904 Farmington Ave. in order to halt bottle service at the establishment. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

By Ronni Newton

The request for a permanent injunction by the Town of West Hartford against Los Imperios was granted Monday, and Deputy Corporation Counsel Kimberly Boneham said that the ruling of Superior Court Judge A. Susan Peck will permit the town to fine the establishment $250 for each future violation of a zoning ordinance pertaining to bottle service.

“I’m hoping this will be enough to make a difference,” Boneham said Tuesday. The injunction was requested to allow for an increase in fines for violation of zoning ordinances from the current level of $150.

According to Boneham, the $250 fine will apply only to future violations of West Hartford’s ordinance 177-2, which defines the term “restaurant” and specifically states that restaurants are prohibited from “sale of alcohol or spirits by the bottle to a patron or patrons.” 

The injunction is also imposed against the property owner, Lisaraj, LLC, but they are not subject to the financial penalties association with any citations, Boneham said. Lisaraj, LLC owns the 904 Farmington Ave. building occupied by Los Imperios, as well as the adjacent West Hartford Inn and parking garage.

Monday’s decision was an order by the judge, while the court’s action in November regarding an injunction for other violations was done with the consent of both parties, Boneham said.

In November, attorneys for both parties agreed to the town’s request for an injunction regarding cover charges and restriction of entry to only patrons over age 21. Citations for those violations now carry a fine of $500 rather than $150. Boneham said that to best of her knowledge Los Imperios has not had any violations related to those practices since the fines were increased.

The process of seeking injunctive relief began in August, and following that action Los Imperios owner Ernesto Leon admitted to certain ordinance violations for which citations had been issued.

The attorney representing Los Imperios, Rodvald Jones, said Tuesday that his client appreciates the court’s definition of what constitutes “bottle service” and that his client fully plans to comply with the town’s ordinance.

The order issued by Judge Peck states that bottle service is: “the sale of alcohol or spirits by the bottle or the sale of the contents of a bottle of alcohol or spirits, in a container or containers other than the original bottle, for a flat fee.”

Boneham said that Los Imperios had previously contended that providing liquor that had first been poured into a carafe did not constitute bottle service. She added that West Hartford police officers have previously observed the direct sale of an entire bottle of liquor, as well as sale of a carafe.

“This was never about my client looking to offend or affront the ordinances or codes of West Hartford,” Jones said. He said that Los Imperios has already “suspended all of the other activities” deemed in violation – restricting entry by minors and charging a cover – and will no longer have bottle service now that the judge has delineated exactly what it is.

“What the judge was able to articulate for us is for bottle service not to be provided in VIP service. We’re fine with that,” Jones said. Other VIP services, which will be continued, include exclusive table service for certain parties, he said.

“Los Imperios is pleased with the outcome and the articulation of the injunction,” Jones said.

“I’m hoping that this will be sufficient to cause them to comply,” Boneham said. She said she is encouraged by the judge’s granting permission to allow the town to go back to court and seek a higher fine if this action does not prove effective.

Boneham said that to the best of her knowledge there are no other establishments in town that are providing bottle service. “We aren’t aware of any restaurants in West Hartford doing bottle service. If we are made aware, we will investigate,” she said.

Los Imperios has been closed for several days and remains closed, but for reasons unrelated to the injunction or the establishment’s compliance with the terms of its entertainment license, for which they have received a warning notice from West Hartford Police Chief Tracey Gove.

A sign on the door of Los Imperios indicated that the establishment was closed over the weekend by the Department of Labor for workers' compensation violations. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A sign on the door of Los Imperios indicated that the establishment was closed over the weekend by the Department of Labor for workers’ compensation violations. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jones also addressed a stop-work from the State Department of Labor which has kept Los Imperios closed since Jan. 27. The bright red notice was posted on the door on Friday, and stated that the Los Imperios was “ordered to cease all business operations for this worksite.” Reasons cited were all related to workers’ compensation coverage, and included failure to secure payment for coverage, and failing to secure coverage that meets requirements, misrepresenting employees as independent contractors, and materially understating or concealing payroll.

Jones said the workers’ compensation and other employment-related issues are “currently being addressed” and he expects the matter to be rectified shortly allowing for lifting of the stop-work order and the reopening of the restaurant.

Los Imperios will be working hard to ensure that the establishment has a good relationship with the town and the surrounding neighborhood in the future, Jones said.

“There were many unfortunate events that occurred. We want to work with the town and the neighborhood. [Los Imperios is] absolutely doing everything in their capability to make sure they are being operated as a restaurant and that their clientele respect their neighbors,” Jones said.

Jones said that Los Imperios will take measures “above and beyond” to ensure that it does not create problems, especially for the neighbors.

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