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Braintree

Bar cleared of wrongdoing in overserving case

A Braintree bar that was accused of overserving a patron has been cleared of wrongdoing by the state, in a case that clarified guidelines for town officials.

Last September, the town found the Braintree Brewhouse guilty of overserving a patron after a woman allegedly drank heavily throughout an August evening and ended up throwing up outside the establishment. She was later taken to South Shore Hospital.

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During the deliberations, there was disagreement about whether Braintree’s Board of Licensing Commissioners could prove that all the alcohol that had gotten the woman drunk had been consumed at the Braintree bar. But a majority of board members found the establishment guilty, suspending its liquor license for one day.

As is customary with first offenses, the penalty was suspended if the establishment did not have any other violations for six months. However, the bar appealed the ruling to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which handed down its decision clearing the bar late last month.

As a result, the head of Braintree’s licensing board said, officials have a better understanding of what evidence will be needed to prove an overserving violation in the future.

“I think what [the members of the ABCC] have done is articulated very clearly the standards that have to be met to be successful in finding a violation of that nature, specifically that an intoxicated person was served,” said licensing board chairman Joseph Powers, who is also Braintree’s town clerk. “As I said to the board back in September, those standards are very high and it’s incumbent on local licensing authorities to make sure we have that.”

Under the ABCC standards, Powers said, boards have to find concrete evidence that a person was overserved at the establishment in question, and cannot infer the violation because the intoxicated person was there.

‘I think what [the members of the ABCC] have done is articulated very clearly the standards that have to be met to be successful in finding a violation of that nature.’

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In the hearing last fall, Powers dissented in the vote to punish the Brewhouse, saying that he had participated in earlier liquor license hearings that proved the threshold for this kind of offense was higher.

This case will provide a precedent for newer members of the licensing board, which in addition to the town clerk, has consisted of the director of municipal licenses, police chief, fire chief, and building inspector since the town government was changed in 2008.

“I think going forward, we did have this as a learning opportunity,” Powers said. “Not the ideal way to go about learning, but what we have now is a very clear standard. Now it’s incumbent on all of us to retain this and keep it as our institutional knowledge going forward.”

An appeal with the ABCC is also being pursued by the Landing Pub, which has been found guilty by the town board of a similar offense.

Powers would not speculate on the results of the Landing Pub appeal, but said he believes he voted correctly in both the Brewhouse and Landing Pub decisions. In the latter case, the board voted unanimously that the pub was guilty.

“In those two particular instances, there was ample information that led me to have confidence in what I suspected was going to happen,” Powers said.

Powers said that he hopes to learn of a hearing date with the establishment in the next two to three weeks.

The case involved a man celebrating his 21st birthday last September. The man allegedly got into a fight with his brother outside the pub, and police were called to intervene.

In a hearing on Feb. 26, the licensing board found the pub guilty of overserving the man and levied a two-day liquor license suspension. The suspension was put on hold as soon as the bar appealed the ruling.

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@gmail.com.
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