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Los Imperios Loses Liquor License, Decision Follows Remonstrance Hearing

Los Imperios. 904 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, CT. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Los Imperios, located at 904 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford, has been denied renewal of its liquor permit and may no longer serve alcohol.

By Ronni Newton

The Liquor Control Commission at the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) announced late Friday that a decision had been rendered, and based on the evidence presented at the remonstrance hearing on Nov. 30, Los Imperios has been denied renewal of its liquor license and, effective immediately, may no longer serve alcohol.

“In its written decision, the Commission found substantial evidence to deny the liquor permit’s renewal, and found that the location and permittee to be unsuitable for a liquor permit,” the DCP said in a news release announcing the decision.

DCP spokesperson Lora Rae Anderson confirmed Friday evening that the notice had been delivered to the permittee, Ernesto Leon, and is effective as of Dec. 8.

On Monday, the court approved the town’s request for an injunction against Los Imperios, and ordered repayment of more than $76,000 in costs incurred for the private duty police detail that had been deployed several nights per week since the spring. The injunction also ordered Los Imperios to comply with town ordinances, and prohibits the establishment from having “any DJs or live performances until the Town of West Hartford issues a new entertainment license to defendants Los Imperios, Leon, and/or Marquez.”

The order allows Los Imperios to “operate as a restaurant, but not as a bar, nightclub, or dance hall.”

West Hartford Assistant Police Chief Robert McCue, who was among those who testified at the remonstrance, said Friday evening that he doesn’t know whether or not Los Imperios will attempt to operate as a restaurant.

Police are no longer sending private duty detail to the establishment, he said, but police did check on the establishment on Thursday.

“They were open yesterday, but there was no one inside except for two employees and they shut down around 9:30 p.m.,” he said. Promoters, who had been advertising upcoming events at Los Imperios, said the establishment was closed, but McCue said he didn’t know if that meant permanently closed or just not hosting the DJs.

The business appeared to be closed all day Friday. A call to Los Imperios on Friday evening went to voicemail.

“They can open as a restaurant, and serve food, but that will limit their business model,” McCue said.

“Public input is very valuable to us at DCP. We know we do our best work protecting public health and safety when we hear from local residents,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull in a statement. “The Liquor Control Commission takes these decisions very seriously, and I’m pleased they were able to reach a decision quickly. I’d also like to thank those who attended the hearing, and the West Hartford Police and town officials for their cooperation in this process.”

The six-page “Memorandum of Decision” notes Los Imperios’ “negative impact on various quality of life and safety issues for the neighborhood,” based on evidence presented by resident Melinda Montovani, the agent for the remonstrants. Trash, noise, fighting, public urination, sexual activity in vehicles, and neighbors fearing for their safety were all mentioned in the decision.

Mayor Shari Cantor testified that Los Imperios has become a “public nuisance,” and McCue provided 18 pages of reported incidents of police involvement at the establishment.

Ten remonstrants testified, with similar experiences to those reported by Montovani, and an additional 20 letters were submitted into record, the decision notes.

Acting Police Chief Dan Coppinger said that Los Imperios has “operated as a nightclub since day one” and has been a drain on police resources, despite Leon promising the town prior to opening that he would be operating a restaurant.

“A liquor permit is a privilege and not a right … and not a right we believe should be conferred upon Los Imperios,” the decision states. It states that based on the substantial evidence the permittee has been found “unsuitable for a restaurant liquor permit.”

In addition, the decision states, “Based upon the testimony it appears the premise is a bar and nightclub and not a restaurant in accordance with the permit application.”

“I am so proud to be a part of a community that steps up to the plate to do what is right,” said Montovani after being informed of the decision. “The West Hartford Police Department, Mayor Cantor, and the Town Council showed their relentless commitment to the town residents to keep us safe.”
“I am most grateful for the return of peace of mind and the sense of safety that will be restored to our community,” said Montovani, and she said she was also looking forward to sleeping through the night on Friday, without being woken up to the sounds of fighting and people threatening each other in her front yard. “I will not be picking up broken glass, bottles, and litter tomorrow morning. All I can say right now is life is good!”

The complete “Memorandum of Decision” issued by the Liquor Control Commission can be found by clicking here.

“We were there to support neighborhood. This is really a good example of where the neighbors got together and addressed a problem in their neighborhood,” McCue said.

For more information about remonstrances, visit DCP’s website here. The Liquor Control Division at DCP collaborates with and takes referrals from police, businesses, organizations, residents, and other institutions to ensure that liquor permit holders are acting in accordance with the law.

Those with complaints or referrals relating to a liquor permit holder in the State of Connecticut may contact the Liquor Control Division by emailing [email protected] or by calling (860) 713-6210.

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