After Fatal Car Accident Killed Drunk Patron, Massachusetts Bar Loses Liquor License
In the early hours of New Year’s Day, bar patron James McLaughlin crashed his car, killing himself and injuring two other passengers in a severe drunk driving accident. The bar, Common Ground in Arlington, Massachusetts, has since been closed by the Board of Selectmen due to alleged violations of their liquor license, which led to McLaughlin’s fatal accident.
It is a violation in nearly every state, including South Carolina, to serve patrons who are visibly drunk. In Arlington, the Selectmen serve as the liquor licensing board.
At the bar’s hearing on December 7th, Common Ground’s liquor license was revoked for 3 days; the order further revoked the bar’s ability to ask for extended hours for one year. Accordingly, they will not be able to remain open longer than their normal, regularly scheduled business hours for major holidays including New Year’s.
Common Ground has not previously faced any violations, and the punishments imposed for the drunk driving accident are among the most serious the Selectmen have imposed upon a bar. If the Selectmen determine that Common Ground has violated any of the terms of its liquor license at any point during the next year, Common Ground will have its liquor license suspended automatically for 14 days.
“This is by far the most serious punishment we’ve handed out in my 27 years on the Board of Selectmen,” chairman Kevin Greeley said.
Selectman Joe Curro added that he was grieved because of the situation that led to the fatal car accident, and although the punishment for the bar is very harsh, he believes it fits the situation.
“This is why, as a board, we’re so strict on these violations, because every violation is a potential death or tragedy waiting to happen,” he said.
Still, Common Ground’s owners noted that their business would suffer even with a three-day liquor license suspension. The bar has served Boston for 15 years, with their Arlington location open for a year and a half without any previous violations, and the suspension could put the owners’ livelihood in jeopardy. Normally, when a bar violates their liquor license in any way, the first offense is a warning. The owners stated that they believed their punishment was unfair.
Selectmen argued that, because of the severity of the accident, the punishment was just in this case. One member argued for a five day liquor license suspension, rather than three days, which is a typical time for such licenses to be suspended while the bar fixes the problem that led to the violation.
Both of the passengers in McLaughlin’s car – who included his daughter – worked at Common Grounds.
Liquor license suspensions can be very detrimental for bars and restaurants, which is why it is important to fight these charges. Even a few days’ suspension of a liquor license can not only cause a bar like Common Ground to lose business, and therefore revenue, but the time away can also cause patrons to no longer frequent the establishment – hurting the business.