Business Government Police/Fire

West Hartford Police Will Fine Los Imperios, Seek Entertainment License Suspension

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

West Hartford Police say that Los Imperios is refusing the private duty detail they have assigned and the town plans to fine them in violation of the entertainment ordinance, and at same time will move for a suspension of the entertainment license.

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford Police are continuing action to curb disturbances they say are emanating from Los Imperios Restaurant and Bar, and under two sections of the town’s entertainment ordinance will begin issuing fines and moving to suspend the business’ entertainment license.

Police began assigning private duty officers to Los Imperios on Saturday, May 27, 2017, in response to a series of incidents that had continued to take place at the 904 Farmington Ave. establishment. Chief Tracey Gove, in a May 22, 2017, had advised Los Imperios owner Ernesto Leon that the two officers and cruisers would be assigned each night that the business has a DJ, at a cost to Los Imperios of $1,362 per night.

According to Gove’s letter, the business had five business days – until May 27 – to respond before the detail would be assigned.

West Hartford Police Department Asst. Chief Robert McCue said that because there had not been a response before May 27, a team of two officers and cruisers were assigned. He said it was the first time the police had dealt with this type of assignment, and the officers did not know to make contact with Leon to discuss payment that night.

Attorney Rodvald Jones, who represents Los Imperios and Leon, issued a response to the chief’s letter on May 30, indicating that his client did not support the decision to hire a private duty police detail. In that letter, a copy of which has been obtained by We-Ha.com, Jones cited the fact that Los Imperios “has reinstated valet parking and hired additional security to help quell the noise and disturbance issues you indicated that occurred outside the premises.”

Jones also maintained that Los Imperios security had dealt appropriately with incidents on May 5 and May 14, both of which Gove cited in his letter as reasons for the requirement of the private duty detail.

Gove responded to Jones’ May 30 letter on that same day, noting that since his previous letter there had been another incident at Los Imperios – a scuffle between a security guard and two patrons that resulted in the arrest of all three parties.

According to Gove’s May 30 letter, he provided the report detailing that May 26 incident, and informed Leon that “this is your third violation of Chapter 75 of the Code of the Town of West Hartford,” and as a result a fine of $150 would be issued and Los Imperios’ entertainment permit will be suspended for the 15 day period beginning June 15, 2017 through June 29, 2017.

“During this time you are not permitted to provide entertainment to your patrons, as defined in Chapter 75,” Gove wrote. There is a provision to request a hearing to contest the action within 10 days, but according to McCue, a request for a hearing has not yet been made.

McCue said that although Leon “refused the detail on the advice of his attorney” when the two assigned officers arrived on Thursday, June 1, the officers remained in the area “providing security to the business and the residents.” The same thing happened on Friday, June 2, McCue said.

On Saturday, June 3, the officers were advised that Leon would not be at the restaurant that night, and the officers remained on site providing security anyway, McCue said.

Although police had previously assigned officers to monitor the area, McCue said they were in cruisers. “These officers are on foot, standing around. We think it might be more of a deterrent, more of a quieting effect,” he said.

McCue said that police received only one complaint that weekend, as opposed to an average of four or five, so police believe the dedicated details are effective.

And although there was only one complaint, a noise complaint from the apartment building across the street about a disturbance at 1:47 a.m. on June 4, McCue said that the private duty officers were involved in several incidents including:

Jeffrey Santiago. Photo courtesy of West Hartford Police

  • Stopping a car that pulled out of the Los Imperios driveway at 1:31 a.m. on June 2, swerving and without lights on. The driver, who was identified as Jeffrey Santiago and said he was a DJ at Los Imperios that night, failed a field sobriety test and was arrested on DUI charges. Santiago’s BAC was found to be .146 percent when tested at the police station, police said. According to police, Santiago said he had been provided with free beer while working as a DJ at Los Imperios, and also had a glass of Hennessy in the car when he was stopped. Police said they previously charged a driver who was leaving Los Imperios with DUI on May 7, 2017.
  • A patron was ticketed for creating a public disturbance on June 3, 2017, at 1:50 a.m. Police said the patron was “yelling and refusing to get out of the middle of the street.”

McCue said that under the terms of the entertainment ordinance, the town will begin fining Los Imperios $250 per day for not paying for the police detail. The detail will continue to be assigned, he said, at a cost of $1,362 per night.

“We will explore all options to recover the costs,” McCue said.

McCue said that Leon and his attorney either have or have access to all information they need in order to establish a remediation plan, which has not been done, he said.

Jones said in a phone interview Monday that he is responding to police, and is objecting to the police detail.

“A letter will be submitted to each and every one that requires a response,” Jones said regarding responses to Gove’s letters.

Regarding the notice about the 15-day suspension of Los Imperios’ entertainment permit, Jones said, “We will be responding accordingly and in a timely manner as we have to each of their requests.”

Jones said that since the entertainment ordinance, which was approved in October 2016,  has been implemented, his client has done his best to work with the town.

“This is something I can’t believe is occurring, but this is apparently the route the town is taking,” Jones said. “My client is running a respectable business to the best of his abilitiies, and to be met with such opposition – I find it a shame.”

Unrelated to the entertainment ordinance enforcement, police also noted that two Los Imperios bartenders, Isaac G. Contreras-Parra and Guillermina Marquez, have been issued summonses for serving liquor to minors and are due in community court on June 7.  

Police said that the Special Investigations Division sent underage college students into three restaurants in town on June 4, 2017, as part of a regular compliance check, and one of them received service at Los Imperios by both Contreras-Parra and Marquez.

The students had their IDs checked and were refused service at the other two establishments to which they were sent, McCue said.

According to McCue, compliance checks are done every three to four months by police as well as by the Liquor Commission. This case will be referred to the Liquor Commission, he said, and Los Imperios was also cited for a violation on March 31, 2017.

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