The suspension is effective beginning July 18, 2017.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford Police Chief Tracey Gove rendered his decision on Monday afternoon, and informed Los Imperios owner Ernesto Leon in a three-page letter that the establishment’s entertainment license has been suspended for 15 days, beginning July 18, 2017, and ending on Aug. 2.
Gove’s decision comes following a hearing held July 12, attended by Leon, his attorney Rodvald E. Jones, West Hartford Deputy Corporation Counsel Kimberly Boneham, and representatives of the West Hartford Police Department.
The hearing was requested under the terms of the town’s entertainment ordinance, passed in October 2016, to give Los Imperios and its representatives the opportunity to present documentation regarding why the suspension – which Gove said in a May 30 letter would be imposed after Los Imperios had incurred its third violation of the entertainment ordinance within six months – should not be put into place.
During that hearing, Los Imperios did not dispute the first ordinance violation, which involved a DJ playing music within a half hour of closing.
The other two violations – both fights that took place on the premises – were the subject of discussion at the hearing. While neither Jones nor Leon disputed that the May 14 and May 26 incidents had taken place, Jones stated that he did not feel the handling of the incidents had violated the ordinance.
The language of the ordinance states that: “All fights, disturbances, violence or any other violation of law shall be reported to the police immediately by the licensee or employees of the establishment.” In his July 17 letter suspending the license, Gove wrote, “It is my understanding that you believe that because the two fights had been reported by the victims to officers who were outside in the general vicinity of Los Imperios, those reports met the ‘immediate’ standard in § 75-3C(4) [the section of the entertainment ordinance noted above]. In addition, because your staff cooperated in assisting the officers with their investigations, that cooperation was considered to be ‘reporting’ to the police.”
In both the May 14 and May 26 incidents, police were contacted, but not by any representatives of Los Imperios, Gove said. Gove did not find acceptable the assertion by Los Imperios that there was “no time to report it.”
The first fight involved several intoxicated male patrons inside Los Imperios. Staff had earlier been informed that the men were inappropriately touching female patrons, but failed to remove them from the establishment. The same intoxicated males then sparked a fight, which Gove said Los Imperios security staff was unable to prevent.
One of the victims called his mother to report the incident, and she then contacted the victim’s sister who called police. The call lasted six minutes, Gove said.
“This indicates that either your staff does not have the proper training or you do not have enough staff present, with the latter evidenced by your own comments at the hearing that everyone was ‘too busy’ dealing with the situation to call the police,” Gove stated in his letter.
Los Imperios was fined $150 for that second violation, in accordance with the entertainment ordinance, and was supposed to meet with Special Investigations Division staff and submit an abatement plan. The meeting took place but Gove said at the hearing and in his July 17 letter, “To date I have yet to receive your abatement plan.”
In the second fight, on May 26, a Los Imperios security guard was involved in a scuffle with two female patrons, and admittedly “mushed” the face of one of those patrons when she tried to re-enter the business to retrieve her debit card. The two females both called police, and also walked across the street and reported it to officers who were stationed in the parking lot of the gas station across the street.
“The plain language of the ordinance requires that the licensee or employees of an establishment immediately report to the police all fights, disturbances, violence, or any other violation of law. A report by a victim does not meet this requirement, regardless of the fact that an officer may be outside somewhere in the ‘immediate area’ to whom a victim might complain.
Another subsequent violation also occurred, on July 7, involving a “large commotion” in front of the main doors, an assertion by patrons trying to get inside that those who had paid $10 were being allowed entry, and the report of a strong odor of marijuana by officers who entered the establishment. Gove told Leon in a letter dated July 13 that he was being put on notice because the incident took place while the license was under review, and that the incident would be cited as a fourth violation “if there are any subsequent incidents.”
Gove said that the continued disturbances indicate a problem with Los Imperios’ business plan, and underscore the need to develop an abatement plan.
“Based on the above incidents, the fact that you have failed to submit an abatement plan, and the lack of any suggestion that one will be forthcoming – which would demonstrate the measure you are planning to take to prevent similar incidents from occurring – I see no other option than to suspend your entertainment license for fifteen days …” Gove informed Leon on July 17.
The suspension will not force the establishment to close, and food as well as alcoholic beverage service may continue. During the time of the suspension, however, Los Imperios may not have a DJ or live entertainment.
Gove told We-Ha.com that should Los Imperios violate the 15-day suspension “there would be a fine and he would face a fourth violation of the ordinance and possible further fines and suspension.”
According to Gove, Los Imperios has no further recourse. “There is no appeal process through the town ordinance for the suspension,” he said.
Once Los Imperios has its entertainment license reinstated, on Aug. 2, the process of counting violations does not start over, Gove said. If a subsequent violation takes place within six months of the third offense, under the terms of the ordinance Los Imperios would be subject to “further fines and suspension.”
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