BELLOWS FALLS -- A local watering hole that has allegedly had some problems with overserving alcohol to patrons is serving a 17-day suspension by the Vermont Department of Liquor Control (DLC).
Nick's Bar & Grill, at 65 Rockingham St., began the suspension Friday, April 19, according to Bill Goggins, who has been the director of educational licensing and enforcement for 12 years. Goggins said overserving is when customers are repeatedly given alcohol after they have shown obvious signs of intoxication.
Wayne Ryan, owner of Nick's, did not want to speak with the Reformer.
"My comment is, ‘No comment,'" he said Friday after rhetorically asking if the Reformer wanted to sell newspapers at his expense.
Goggins said some complaints had been made against the establishment, resulting in an investigation.
Bellows Falls Police Chief Ron Lake told the Reformer he would not have considered overserving to be a problem at Nick's, but now understands it must be.
"The investigation started through my office and went to Liquor Control from there," he said Tuesday. "It was a surprise that it happened. It came as a little bit of a shock."
According to a notice of hearing by the DLC, Nick's Bar & Grill on two occasions allowed patrons displaying obvious signs of intoxication to possess and consume alcohol and allowed them to stay on the premises in a non-segregated area and served alcohol to several patrons whom it was reasonable to expect were already intoxicated.
The state initiated an investigation following a serious car crash near the intersection of Pine and Center streets on June 9. The documents state the DLC is confident the operator of the vehicle, Chelsea Milko, crashed because she had become inebriated after a bartender at Nick's failed to cut her service before she became drunk.
The documents go into the greatest detail about one incident on June 9 -- when Milko and her friends had several strong drinks and were showing obvious signs of intoxication (such as being unable to stand up straight) before she was cut off and decided to leave. The Dodge Neon she was driving crashed into a stone wall and sustained extensive damage to its front and right sides. According to police, the injured Milko fled the scene and was discovered hiding behind a bush several streets away from the accident scene.
Amanda Goyette of Bellows Falls was sitting in the passenger seat and had to be extracted from the vehicle by emergency services and then flown to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, according to the DCL. She sustained severe head trauma, including broken bones in her skull and bleeding in her brain. She was hospitalized for 10 days and she still experiences headaches, has trouble hearing and is frequently dizzy.
Timothy Williams was sitting in the backseat and suffered a broken wrist.
According to Trisha L. Conti, Ph.D., the senior forensic chemist and alcohol program supervisor of the Vermont Forensic Laboratory in Waterbury (where a sample of Milko's blood was sent), Milko's blood-alcohol concentration was 0.134 at 2:57 a.m. the day of the crash.
This was the first a few incidences reportedly involving Nick's that led to the investigation. There was a hearing held in December and the DCL issued its order of suspension and the documents.
Goggins said overserving is a big problem across the state. He said people in the industry are required to be trained every two years to help avoid problems of overserving.
"When you see some definite signs of intoxication, cease service to that person and try to get them a ride home," he said, adding that common sense must also be used even if a patron does not seem inebriated. "But if you've served someone eight beers in an hour, a reasonable person would say that person will be intoxicated."
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.