Cape Verdean Club Liquor License Suspension Reduced
By: Christopher Kazarian
Selectmen reduced its suspension of the Cape Verdean Club’s liquor license this week from 60 days to two weeks after conducting its second hearing related to several parties that have taken place there leading to noise complaints, fights, a stabbing, and a police officer being injured.
At the beginning of the month the board voted to suspend the license for two months, but the action became nullified after it was discovered representatives from the Cape Verdean Club had not picked up the certified letter until after the hearing.
“You have to show they had notice of the hearing before you can go forward,” Falmouth Town Counsel Frank K. Duffy Jr. explained last week. Before this week’s hearing was conducted, he said, Constable James M. Crossen delivered the hearing notice by hand to Cape Verdean Club representatives.
“This doesn’t happen very often,” Mr. Duffy said, noting that if selectmen did not rehear the case this week, the Cape Verdean Club could have appealed the decision to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission because they were not given proper notice.
But no explanation was given on Monday to the public as to why selectmen were rehearing the case.
At the root of the problem, Falmouth Police Chief Anthony J. Riello said, have been incidents that have occurred over the past two years, which his department has responded to and which have gotten increasingly worse.
Since February, he said, there have been four parties that stood out that he briefly highlighted. The last took place in October, he said, in which Officer Andrew Loewen suffered a broken nose while apprehending a suspect who was involved in a fight outside the club.
Mr. Loewen’s brother, Sergeant Brian T. Loewen, spoke about this incident. He said the police received two calls that night: the first that there had been a fight at the club and the second that there may have been a possible stabbing.
He said when officers arrived, they found suspects fleeing into the woods and gave chase, finding the assailant in the Percival Road area, where in the midst of apprehending him, Officer Loewen was kicked in the face, breaking his nose.
Shortly thereafter, Sgt. Loewen said, the victim was found and he was heavily intoxicated and could not even tell police his name. He, along with two others, were taken into protective custody because they were so drunk, he said.
Sgt. Loewen also mentioned the fight reported during a graduation party at the end of June at the Cape Verdean Club. He said there had been reports of a stabbing.
The police report notes that later that morning police found the stabbing victim in the emergency room at Falmouth Hospital, but the victim was uncooperative with officers.
Sergeant Scott R. Hartzler focused on the incident on Valentine’s Day of this year at the club in which officers from the evening and midnight shifts responded to a group of unruly patrons whom he described as acting aggressively to police. He said one male became disorderly and officers had to pepper spray him and later arrest him.
Wareham attorney A. De Miranda, representing the Cape Verdean Club, asked both sergeants several questions related to these incidents, beginning with Sgt. Loewen. He questioned why officers did not go into the club when responding to the October incident.
Officers did not go into the club because they were directed to deal with the assault and battery, Sgt. Loewen said.
Mr. De Miranda also asked about the June stabbing, noting that police were not sure when, where, and who was even stabbed.
Sgt. Loewen responded by saying that a family member of the person stabbed told police what had occurred.
After he conducted his questioning of the officers, Selectman Ahmed A. Mustafa proposed that following the reading of three pages of incidents that have occurred at the club, selectmen take several steps to address the problem.
He said the license should be kept at Falmouth Town Hall until the Cape Verdean Club can provide the proper information as to who the club president is along with documentation that all bartenders are TIPS-certified (Training For Intervention Procedures).
Referring to another assault and battery that occurred during a charity basketball game at the club in July, Mr. Mustafa said it is around that time when the club seems to have the biggest problems and suggested the license be suspended for three days next July.
The board did not act on the proposal as other selectmen had several questions they wanted answered. Board member Mary (Pat) Flynn said the issue was serious and rattled off a list of crimes and potential ones, from assault and battery to a stabbing to disorderly conduct to an officer being assaulted to loud noises, that have been centered around the club.
She noted that these incidents have occurred when other groups have rented out the club as opposed to their occurring during Cape Verdean Club functions.
Club President Wesley R. Leite Sr. said over 85 percent of the functions at the club take place through rentals. These include weddings, graduations, birthday parties, and anniversaries, among other events, he said.
He also disputed the police report, saying that the club was closed during 60 percent of those incidents.
“You are questioning the veracity of the reports?” Ms. Flynn asked.
Mr. Leite said he was, reiterating the fact that the club was closed at the time some of the incidents were reported to police. He also said other incidents occurred off club property.
And he said the club has immediately shut its doors when there has been a problem there.
He said he would be able to respond in writing to detail which reports were wrong and how so, as well as the response made by his club at the time of each incident. He said he could provide that information to selectmen.
Ms. Flynn asked how the club ensures events are safe and vets organizations and people who rent out the facility.
Mr. Leite said the club has an application process and on certain occasions will provide security for events, sometimes going so far as to hire police to provide this for the club. “We’ve done our due diligence to make sure these occurrences don’t happen,” he said.
Ms. Flynn said before selectmen vote on any course of action, she would like to see information provided by the Cape Verdean Club as well as a plan for how it would address police concerns in the future.
The board also questioned Roy R. Rose Jr., manager of the Cape Verdean Club, concerning whether all bar staff were TIPS-certified, asking for documentation on this. Mr. Rose did not have these documents, but he said there are three bartenders properly certified although there are others on staff who serve drinks to patrons.
Chairman of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen Brent V.W. Putnam was upset Mr. Rose did not bring the certification documents with him to the meeting.
At that point, Mr. De Miranda argued that while being TIPS-certified is a good policy, it is not a requirement in Massachusetts.
“It is the law here,” Mr. Mustafa argued.
Mr. Putnam questioned club officials about playing the drinking game beer pong at the establishment and why a 17-year-old was invited to partake in this activity in April through Facebook.
Mr. Leite said the game was played, but without alcohol. And he said no one underage was allowed on the premises.
Chief Riello focused the board on the issue, stressing that he did not want to see another incident occur at the Cape Verdean Club.
“I’m not trying to be punitive or hard on the club, but it has to change,” he said.
“We want to help you,” Ms. Flynn told Cape Verdean Club officials. “We want to help you get it right so these types of things don’t happen.”
She suggested the club work with police and town officials to form a plan on how to deal with the issues that have been plaguing them in recent years.
After the board did not act on Mr. Mustafa’s suggestion, Mr. Putnam proposed suspending the club license for two weeks.
He also asked that the club provide the town with all documentation related to the TIPS-certification of its bartenders and proof of insurance. And he wanted the club to explain how it chose its bar manager.
Ms. Flynn asked that they also establish a plan to ensure these problems cease at the club, which Mr. Putnam agreed with.
The board unanimously agreed to this proposal and asked club officials to return to selectmen at their next meeting on Monday, December 6, and provide the information requested.