EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 10, 2014

Fifth city bar loses its liquor license

Xavier's Place appeals, allowing it to stay open in Lawrence

By Keith Eddings

---- — LAWRENCE – A Lawrence Street bar that lost its liquor license last month after a troubled history that climaxed with a stabbing in February is appealing the revocation, allowing it to avoid – at least for now - becoming the fifth bar shut by the city in less than two years.

The city’s Licensing Board revoked the license held by Xavier’s Place after a 27-year-old city man was stabbed by what he told police was a drug dealer at the bar at 2 a.m. on Feb. 22.

The bar’s employees did not report the stabbing to police, according to Pedro Torres, the new chairman of the city’s Licensing Board, which revoked the bar’s liquor license in a unanimous vote on March 26.

The bar’s owner, Luis Yagual of Lawrence, declined to comment when reached yesterday.

The victim, Mitchel Abreau of Lawrence, was taken to Lawrence General Hospital with stab wounds to his neck, chest and arms, then moved to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, where he remained for four days.

“I almost died that day,” Abreau said yesterday.

Police Detective Alan Andrews, who led the police investigation, did not return a phone call yesterday, but Abreau said no suspects have been arrested.

Yagual’s appeal to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission automatically restores his license until the ABCC can hold a hearing and rule on the revocation. His appeal does not state the grounds for restoring his license.

The stabbing was one of several incidents at Xavier’s in recent years, including a brawl on June 26, 2011, at the height of the year-long wave of violence that swept through the city’s nightclubs after former Mayor William Lantigua laid off two dozen police in a budget crunch.

The Licensing Board rejected a recommendation from police that Xavier’s be disciplined for the brawl after Sal Tabit, the bar’s lawyer at the time, said Yagual would hire police details and personally check identifications at the door.

The problems persisted. Most recently, on Feb. 28 – six days after Abreau was stabbed – Xavier’s was cited for failing to keep a crowd count and for operating a fog machine, which are prohibited in Lawrence bars and nightclubs. The bar also has been cited for serving minors.

Two other bars and a social club also were disciplined by the Licensing Board along with Xavier’s on March 26 as part of a crackdown promised by Torres, who Mayor Daniel Rivera named to replace Mayra Lantigua, the former mayor’s ex-wife, as chairman in one of his first appointments after taking office in January.

The ax that night fell hardest on the United Latino Sports Club at 134 West St., which lost its certificate of occupancy after inspectors found it serving beer at 2 a.m. on March 1. The club does not have a liquor license. Its certificate of occupancy was revoked last year for another offense.

Bar Rock, at 168 Broadway, was fined $200 after inspectors found an intoxicated woman at the bar, no manager on site and tinting over more than 35 percent of its windows.

Le Drink, at 596 Essex St., lost its liquor license for three days beginning April 17 after fire inspectors found it had covered smoke detectors in plastic, possibly to allow patrons to smoke or to allow a fog machine to operate. The Fire Department fined the bar $1,100, noting it had been cited for the same offense last year.

“These people are going to get the message sooner or later,” said Torres, who has joined police and fire inspectors on their rounds of the bars three times since becoming chairman of the Licensing Board. “I’m going to be out there at least twice a month. They’re going to know they’re not going to be able to get away with the things they’ve been doing because I can show up any day.”

“This is what we expect of the Licensing Board,” Rivera said in a prepared statement.

If the ABCC upholds the board’s decision to shut Xavier’s, the bar would join four others shut by the city and state since the crackdown on Lawrence nightlife began in July 2012. The four are Casa de Sirena on Jackson Street, Marabu Cafe on Union Street, La Guira on Broadway and Fuego Latino on Broadway.

Information was not available yesterday about how the five revocations in two years ranks Lawrence among municipalities statewide in seizing liquor licenses from offending bars. But Jon Carlisle, a spokesman for the ABCC, said Methuen, Haverhill and Lowell have revoked no licenses over the same period.