Owner denied new license days before murder
Date: 3/17/2010March 17, 2010.
By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD -- Less than two days after the Board of License Commissioners voted to deny the application of the owner of the Blue Fusion Bar and Grill at 487 St. James Ave. to turn his closed bar into a beer and wine package store, a Cathedral High School student lost his life at a party there.
Springfield Police Department spokesperson Sgt. John Delaney reported this weekend that officers were dispatched to the closed bar on March 13 at 11:03 p.m. for a stabbing.
"Officers responded within minutes and located two male victims in the parking lot lying down between two parked cars. Both victims were male, age 17. Bystanders and friends were providing first aid to the victims. One of the victims was stabbed in the neck and was bleeding very heavily. The other victim was stabbed in the arm. An ambulance arrived on scene and transported both male victims to Baystate Medical Center Emergency Room. The victim that was stabbed in the neck was pronounced dead at 11:31 p.m. by Dr. Winston," Delaney wrote in his report.
The murder victim was Conor Reynolds of Springfield.
"The other 17-year-old victim was treated and released for a stab wound to his left forearm. Both victims are from Cathedral High School and are Springfield residents," Delaney said.
Reynolds was a soccer player and a senior at Cathedral High School.
The bar was hired as a spot for a birthday party for a Cathedral High Student. According to the police report, the party swelled to more than 250 students. Some the young people had been drinking and were drunk prior to their admission into the club, Delaney wrote.
"There was no security and the owner did not hire any police officers. Some kids snuck in the back door. There was an admission fee or cover at the door to pay for a D.J. The party was not limited to a certain school and you did not have to be invited. Most of the patrons were between 16 and 20 years of age," Delaney wrote.
Police are looking for a black male, 5'7", between 16 and 20 years old as the suspect for the murder. According to Delaney, there were many witnesses and the suspect stabbed both males and ran from the club. The suspect has not yet been identified.
The vote at the Thursday meeting was four against and one in favor of the license sought by Tony Taylor, the owner of the building that most recently housed the Blue Fusion Bar and Grille.
Taylor, a long-time mental health professional, had voluntarily closed his bar because he didn't care for the patrons it was attracting. He also told the board he had worked with Police Commissioner William Fitchet in addressing crime issues at his business.
The property is in foreclosure for the non-payment of over $11,000 in taxes, but Taylor had arranged financing to pay the city for the taxes and to renovate the building. Taylor would not have been granted the license until he had paid the back taxes.
The financing, Attorney Frank Caruso explained to Reminder Publications, was based on receiving approval of the license. When asked if his client would appeal the board's decision to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission in Boston, Caruso said Taylor had not yet discussed the issue with him.
Taylor had the approval of the Planning Board, petitions from supporters and the blessing of the Bay Neighborhood Council. Nine people spoke in his support, telling the board of his reputation as a sincere, hard-working and trust-worthy individual.
Taylor noted he had never been called before the board for a violation at his bar.
There were just as many people speaking out against the proposed package store and almost all of them were from the Hill-McKnight neighborhood. Although there was an issue if 487 St. James Ave. falls in the boundary of the Bay neighborhood, the Hill-McKnight residents contended that for practical purposes the proposed package store would be in their neighborhood.
There are already two other beer and wine stores in the immediate areas, residents told the board. Fears about increased litter, traffic and crime were expressed.
City Councilor Melvin Edwards also spoke against the license application.
Addressing the concerns about litter, Taylor agreed to put a restriction on the license that would prohibit the sale of single bottles or cans of beer.
Commissioner Juan Rivera explained that one of the criteria for granting a new license was to answer the question of need for the business in the area.
"Is there a need for it?" Rivera asked. "From what I've heard today, there is no need."
Without the license, the building will remain vacant and, Caruso said, "Everyone has ideas, but no one has the money."
In other action at the meeting, Graffiti Remediation Officer Michael Cass told the board promoters of shows in the city will no longer be able to hang posters on utility poles, traffic signals or signs. If the signs appear, Cass has been authorized to write a $50 ticket per illegal sign. That violation would have to be paid by the club hosting the event, he explained.
Cass appeared before the board to bring attention to more than 26 illegal posters that he had collected all advertising events at The Zone on Worthington Street.
"There is $1,300 in fines sitting in front of you, Mr. Chair," Cass told Peter Sygnator.
Cass called the posters "suspended litter."
Caruso, also the attorney for Paul Ramesh, owner of The Zone, explained it was the promoter of the shows and not The Zone staff who had hung the posters. Once he learned the posters were illegal, Ramesh had contacted the promoter to take them down.
Cass confirmed the cooperation of The Zone management.
Any sign, even a flyer to be placed under a windshield, must have a permit, Cass said.