By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Police say an inner-city tavern that was ordered to close earlier than usual violated the terms of its probation. Police said they visited the bar last month after the city’s Licence Commission imposed a 9:30 p.m. curfew time on The Other Place, located at the corner of Cedar and 8th Avenue, and found patrons still drinking.
When the License Commission met on Thursday, the owner of the establishment came before commissioners with an application to change managers, but they decided to postpone making a decision until a hearing on the alleged violation can be held.
Last month the board ordered that the tavern close no later than 9:30 p.m. until the owner hired a new manager and that person is approved first by the city and then by state alcohol regulators.
The ruling followed a lengthy investigation by local police and federal agents of drug activity at the business, which is at 119 Cedar St. in the city’s Acre neighborhood. Police and city officials have also raised concerns that current owner and manager, 24-year-old Laurie Chiarenza, has not been on the premises as often as she is supposed to be under her license.
Licence Commissioner Tim Coco said Chiarenza, the tavern’s last approved manager, came before the commission on Thursday with an application to change managers to Jillian Marques, who also appeared before the board.
“The most prudent thing for us to do was not act on the change in manager application but to schedule a show cause hearing on the alleged violation of operating hours,” Coco said, indicating the hearing will be held when the board meets Feb. 7.
Police Lt. Robert Pistone said the bar violated its current probation imposed by the Licence Commission of having to cease serving alcohol at 9:30 p.m.
“Officer (Daniel) Trocki entered their premises on Dec. 12 after 9:30 p.m., and they had patrons present consuming alcoholic beverages,” Pistone said.
The Eagle-Tribune was unable to reach Laurie Chiarenza for comment on this story.
Two months ago, police said they had been investigating the business and Chiarenza’s father, Michael Chiarenza, 45, since 2011. The probe was triggered by complaints from neighbors who suspected drug deals were taking place there, police said. Michael Chiarenza has not been charged.
Undercover federal agents said they infiltrated the business and arranged two drug deals from inside the tavern with a former bartender. But both drug deals, which led to two arrests, were made outside Haverhill, one in Lawrence and one in Salem, N.H.
At the Licence Commission’s December meeting, Chiarenza’s lawyer William Early stressed neither drug deal took place inside the tavern and that no one has been arrested there since Chiarenza opened almost a year ago.
“It would Draconian for the board to revoke the license for something that happened in Salem, New Hampshire,” Early said, referring to the arrest last April of the tavern’s former bartender, Jennifer Moran, for allegedly selling $950 worth of “Perc 30” pills to undercover agents.
Commission members countered that, according to police, drug deals have been arranged, if not consummated, inside the tavern, which they said is a violation of its liquor license. They also expressed concern that Laurie Chiarenza’s father is the person who is really running the business.
At at that hearing, Coco said he was concerned the current manager position appeared to be a ruse.
“She appears to be the manager in name only,” he said, referring to Laurie Chiarenza.
Haverhill police wanted the commission to permanently revoke the tavern’s liquor license. But Commission Chairman Joseph Edwards said the city had been advised by the state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission that it should not revoke or suspend the license since no one was arrested inside the building.
Prior to making its ruling, Early told the commission that Laurie Chiarenza was giving up her management position and would be proposing a new manager at the commission’s January meeting, which was held on Thursday. Early also said Laurie Chiarenza had recently given birth to a child and was no longer able to devote the required time and energy to the business.
Laurie Chiarenza, who in November told the commission she also works full-time selling insurance, said she was also recently in a car accident and was only able to work at the tavern for 20 hours a week.
Edwards suggested the business be required to close at 9:30 p.m. until the new manager is approved by state liquor regulators.
The board unanimously approved the 9:30 p.m. shutdown.
Pistone said police would continue to watch the establishment closely and when the next manager is in place, they will check to make sure they are on the premises more often.