Things have been relatively quiet on the LC front since the new year dawned. The most recent meeting of the Adjudication Board (the arm of the department charged with doling out punishment) featured no new cases.
Contrast that with the final Adjudication meeting of ’08, when four different bars and stores were humbled beneath the board’s withering glare. Of the four, two were charged with selling liquor to someone who was already drunk.
In both of those cases pleas of no contest were entered, which, for folks new to this game, always means a fine (sometimes suspended) or worse. (OK, to be fair: my predecessor and the founder of this column, Anthony Pignataro, wrote in a 2007 LC Watch, think they gave out a letter of reprimand once in the four years I’ve watched them.” So there’s that.)
Since April, at least five establishments have been brought up on charges of serving an already intoxicated individual, defined in the LC’s rules as a person who “has consumed intoxicating liquor sufficient to impair at the time under inquiry the personnormal mental faculties or ability to care for oneself and guard against casualty, or sufficient to substantially impair at the time under inquiry that clearness of intellect and control of oneself which the person would otherwise normally possess.”
It’s been said before in this space but it bears repeating: not every person who ends up failing a Breathalyzer test exhibits obvious signs of drunkenness. Yet the above definition—thorough as it may seem at first glance—is vague enough to allow the LC to pop places for selling to someone who turns out to be drunk without considering whether it was reasonable to expect the bar in question to be aware of that fact. (This becomes especially problematic when, as is often the case, a person who has been bar hopping winds up somewhere for a night cap and that place catches all the heat.)
What’s needed is a combination of clarity and thorough case-by-case evaluation. Hey, the year is young—it’s OK to dream, right?