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Board questions responsibilities of club owners

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD Just how far does the responsibility of a bar owner go? The Springfield Board of License Commissioners tackled that question during a discussion about two incidents that happened in March outside of The Zone at 78-80 Worthington St.

On March 19, one man was shot outside the bar by a bar patron while on March 26 about 200 people gathered in a parking lot near the club. One woman was arrested for disorderly contact.

The Police Department wanted the club to be cited for violations of its alcohol license, but the Law Department upon review of the police reports did not recommend violation. Instead the management of The Zone was asked to appear before the Commission for a discussion about its security plan and closing procedures.

The Zone's attorney, Frank Caruso, said that both incidents had nothing to do with the bar's management, but spoke to larger issues in the Entertainment District. Caruso said that people are drinking in parking lots and garages before they go to clubs. They carry alcoholic beverages in their cars. The owners of the parking lots have not been supervising their lots as carefully as club owners would like, he added.

Caruso said that a number of bar owners are willing to fund more police patrols of the Entertainment District and bar owners would like to have their security staff receive formalized training, an equivalent of the training anyone who serves alcohol is required to receive.

Caruso said he has met with Mayor Charles Ryan and City Solicitor Edward Pikula about both ideas and is waiting for a follow-up meeting.

"None of us profit if there are problems in Springfield," Caruso said.

The Commission went over the bar's security plan. They stop serving earlier than other bars and move people out before the closing time of 2 a.m. They search people before admittance and use a metal detector.

In addressing the incident in the parking lot, which is not owned by the bar, Commission Chair Peter Sygnator asked rhetorically, "How far do you escort patrons off the property before an incident isn't your problem?"

Commissioner Juan Rivera answered, "That's the question." No one had an answer, though.

The Zone's manager Jose Cruz asked whether or not a habitually unruly patron could be banned from a club. Caruso said a ban could invite a discrimination suit and City Attorney Michael Mulcahy said a trespass notice could be issued to prevent someone from returning to a club.

The Commission also heard from manager Steve Deliuomini on the status of Patron, the bar and restaurant that is being constructed in the location of the former Caffeine's on Worthington Street. Deliuomini's attorney, also Frank Caruso, said that construction delays have pushed back the opening of the establishment until the end of this year.

State law requires the holder of a liquor license to use it and the owners of the Patron were first granted a license in 2005. They elected to open their restaurant Pazzo's before completing the work on Patron, Deliuomini said.

Patron will be in danger of losing the license if there isn't significant progress made on the construction by September.

The Commission also voted to revoke the license of Copa's at 690 Main St. The bar's license was under suspension but still sold alcohol.