EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 17, 2013

ABCC ruling expected soon on boat club license

Fatal accident traced back to patron leaving social club

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — NEWBURYPORT — The state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission is expected rule shortly on whether the North End Boat Club can serve liquor again after listening to representatives from the Mansion Avenue club during a brief hearing yesterday inside its Boston headquarters.

The commission now has up to 30 days to decide whether to reinstate the social club’s liquor license, suspended since February in the wake of a fatal New Year’s Eve accident that police traced back to the Newburyport social club and marina off Merrimac Street.

In its ruling, the ABCC found the boat club in violation of five regulations, including hindering or delaying the investigation into the crash on the Route 1 Gillis Bridge just over the river in Salisbury that killed a 41-year-old East Hampstead, N.H., woman.

Police and ABCC investigators have said manager Michael Rurak, whose name is on the club’s liquor license, refused to answer questions based on what he has said is the advice of legal counsel and has not turned over requested documentation. At February’s hearing, Rurak admitted the club violated the four paperwork and procedural statutes, but remained defiant on the hindering or delaying charge.

Newburyport police Detective Matthew Simons, who was at February’s hearing, said since the indefinite suspension of its license, North End Boat Club officials have complied with the department’s investigation into the crash. Simons added that the case remains under investigation and that no statements would be made at this time.

North End Boat Club attorney Steve Miller said he felt good about the hearing, but the decision was now out of the club’s hands.

“I think we paid a very high price for our errors. I just ask them (the commission) for an expedited decision,” Miller said.

Miller went on to quash rumors circulating that the club may open its doors prior to any decision made by the ABCC, and said the club won’t conduct business until they have a liquor license.

Police allege that Mikhael Sarkis of Lawrence, a bartender at North End Boat Club, was drunk when he left the property and got behind the wheel of his car with his girlfriend, Donna Bergeron, and another passenger, Clifford Pollard of Salisbury.

The three had been at the club, which was holding a New Year’s Eve party. The accident occurred just one mile from the club.

The ABCC ruling immediately prohibited North End Boat Club from selling, displaying or giving away alcohol.

Bergeron was riding unbuckled in the front seat of the Lincoln Town Car operated by Sarkis, who entered the bridge in the wrong direction, heading north in the southbound lane. Sarkis crashed head-on into a Mercury Marquis driven by 20-year-old Corey Burgess of Salisbury.

Sarkis, who spent several weeks in a Boston-area hospital recovering from injuries, was indicted by a Salem Superior Court grand jury in May on vehicular homicide, manslaughter and other charges, and is awaiting trial.