West Hartford Deputy Corporation Counsel Kimberly Boneham represented the Town in Hartford Superior Court Tuesday.
By Ronni Newton
The Town of West Hartford continues to seek an injunction against Los Imperios for failure to comply with certain zoning ordinances and liquor regulations, and on Tuesday a Hartford Superior Court judge set a schedule for ruling on the case.
Director of Community Services Mark McGovern said that Los Imperios manager Ernesto Leon “stipulated to certain facts,” admitting that cover charges have routinely been charged and the establishment has barred entry to patrons under age 21 – practices that are violations of West Hartford ordinances.
Los Imperios is not being singled out, and McGovern said that such practices are prohibited for all restaurants in West Hartford. Injunctive relief is considered a last resort, but after the issuance of 29 citations, the Town believes it’s a necessary measure.
Although now admitting to certain violations, according to McGovern Los Imperios does not believe it is in violation of a Town ordinance by selling bottles of liquor poured into carafes. Deputy Corporation Counsel Kimberly Boneham submitted evidence to support the Town’s position that this practice violates the portion 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.”
West Hartford Police Chief Tracey Gove said in an email Aug. 11 that Los Imperios’ business model is not that of a restaurant, but of a club and continues to blatantly violate zoning laws and liquor regulations. He said that the establishment is the only one in town generating complaints from neighbors and where police must routinely send officers for crowd control at closing.
“No other bar or restaurant is charging a cover, providing VIP service, or offering bottle service. No other restaurant charges a fee to make a ‘reservation,'” Gove said.
The Town will submit a brief supporting its position by Sept. 16, and Los Imperios will have until Oct. 28 to submit its brief in response. Oral arguments will be heard on Nov. 14, after which the judge will rule on bottle service as well as the West Hartford’s request for increasing the citation fee from $150 to $2,500.
According to McGovern, Leon appeared before the Liquor Commission on Aug. 6, 2015, and testified that he understood the Town’s ordinances. The injunction is seeking an increase in the fine to $2,500 for each instance of an ordinance violation dating back to Aug. 6. 2015.
“In the meantime, we hope that Mr. Leon complies with local ordinances. If he doesn’t, he will be cited accordingly,” McGovern said.
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