Tavern to remain open after deal

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A last-minute agreement with the city prosecutor kept The Tavern Littleton’s owners from having to defend against allegations leveled in March that a bartender over-served an intoxicated person.

“We think this is a fair stipulation and ask the authority to approve it,” Tricia McCarthy, city prosecutor, told the Littleton Licensing Authority June 12.

If the authority had found The Tavern Littleton guilty, it could have imposed a five-day suspension of the bar’s liquor license that stemmed from a September incident. The five days from that earlier incident were being held in abeyance, meaning they would be dismissed if there were no more violations for a year.

The agreement imposes no new penalties and simply extends the time in abeyance to one year from the June 12 hearing. In exchange, the owners acknowledged there is circumstantial evidence that could prove the city’s case, and that they risked losing their case.

“The burden of proof is with the prosecution, and there is a question whether a person was served while intoxicated,” said Bill Bradish, chair of the authority. “The prosecutor has agreed to the stipulation, which means she doesn’t want to proceed.”

Authority member Earl Gunia strongly disagreed, noting the person who was served admitted he’d had too many beers to count at another bar prior to drinking at The Tavern.

“I’m not inclined to sweep this under the rug,” he said. He and fellow member Ann Mather voted against accepting the agreement. Authority member Donovan O’Dell said he voted in favor reluctantly.

The March incident occurred when police were conducting a bar check. According to the police report, Officer Samuel Hufschmidt noticed the man’s speech was slurred and his eyes were watery. His blood-alcohol content was .155 percent at the scene, as recorded by a preliminary breath test (PBT).

If the agreement had not been reached, The Tavern Littleton’s attorney planned to argue that the PBT evidence should be thrown out, saying state law only allows the tests in drunken-driving cases.

“It is not unusual for some persons with a low tolerance to alcohol to exhibit visible signs of intoxication after only a few drinks, while an experienced drinker can show no signs of intoxication after many drinks,” said David Reitz, director of the Tavern League of Colorado, a trade association of which The Tavern Littleton is a member. “It would be impractical (and horrible customer service) for bars to PBT all of their customers to determine intoxication, and that is why Colorado and the other states I am aware of have adopted a standard of visible, apparent or obvious intoxication to set alcohol beverage service and sales limits.”

The original incident happened on Sept. 28 of last year. Five separate fights broke out in and around the downtown establishment, sending police and bouncers scrambling to regain control. All on-duty Littleton police officers, plus a campus officer from Arapahoe Community College, were deployed to the scene.

The authority suspended The Tavern Littleton’s liquor license for seven days, with five in abeyance. The Tavern Littleton paid a fee in lieu of closure for the other two days.