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Liquor licenses suspended for 3 Dedham businesses

Posted by dinouye  January 3, 2013 11:22 PM

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Three Dedham businesses will have their liquor licenses suspended, one of them for three months, after hearings before selectmen on Thursday.

The three businesses – Wicked Fire Kissed Pizza, The Hilton Boston/Dedham, and East Dedham Liquors – were caught serving alcohol to minors in a Nov. 1 Dedham police sting operation on 43 of the town’s 47 liquor establishments ,according to police reports. Police reports also showed the the three businesses failed Dedham Police sting operations on Sept. 23, 2011.

For the Hilton and Wicked Pizza, Thursday’s hearing represented a second offense. For East Dedham Liquors at 258 Bussey St., it was a hearing for a fifth violation in 16 months, according to Selectman Michael Butler. East Dedham Liquors received the longest suspension.

“It is an education process,” selectmen Chairman Carmen DelloIacono told East Dedham Liquors owner Robert Renzi of the sting operation. “But this establishment is educating others on what not to do.”

The employee who served the minor at East Dedham Liquors had five years of experience serving alcohol and was certified through Training and Intervention Procedures for Servers of alcohol (TIPS), according to Boston attorney Stephen Miller, who represented Renzi.

That employee was fired following the incident, Miller said.

“The ironic part was the customer in front of her did not have an ID and the employee refused to serve and got into a heated argument with that customer,” Miller said. “[The employee] seemed to lose it at that point and went ahead and served the confidential informant.”

Before selectmen announced the penalty, Millier said that Renzi would work behind the cash register each day the business is open between 1 and 10 p.m., and a trusted employee would handle the morning customers from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Selectman Sarah MacDonald said that selectmen's hearings in August and October of 2011 dealt with three previous violations. Butler added that the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission also conducted a hearing within the past 16 months. Miller confirmed that Thursday’s hearing was the fifth violation hearing in that time.

In the October 2011 hearing, selectmen suspended East Dedham Liquors’ license for 15 days with five days held in abeyance based on 24 months of good behavior.

Selectmen voted Thursday to suspend the license for six months, with three held in abeyance for 24 months, and three to be served starting on Jan. 14 and ending on April 14.

Renzi declined to comment following the hearing.

PMA Beverage Services, which handles liquor sales for the Hilton, and Wicked Fire Kissed Pizza also had their hearings on Thursday.

Dedham attorney Peter Zahka represented Wicked Fire Kissed Pizza. Also present were business owner Robert Catania and manager of record Zachary Catania.

The employee who served the underage person was fired immediately, Zahka said. He added that the Wicked Pizza at Legacy Place had instituted a policy of asking each customer for identification following the Nov. 1 incident.

Even before the underage sale, Wicked Pizza policy dictated that employees attend sessions before each shift they work reminding them to ask for identification, Zahka said. The employee in question went over to another employee’s table to serve the drink, he said.

PMA Beverage Services attorney Dennis Gannon attended the Hilton hearing with six Hilton managers, including the Dedham hotel's general manager, Brian McGrath.

Like at Wicked Pizza, Hilton managers implemented a policy of asking all patrons for identification and fired the employee found to be responsible for the sale to a minor, Gannon said.

Selectmen suspended the liquor licenses of The Hilton and Wicked Fire Kissed Pizza for seven days, with three held in abeyance for 24 months based on good behavior. The other four will take place on Jan. 15-18.

Both of those suspensions included two days held in abeyance from the 2011 violation hearings.

During the Nov. 1 stings, two local college students studying criminal justice were trained by Dedham police and used as operatives, according to Dedham Police incident reports released on Nov. 28.

“We told the operatives not to wear clothing that would make them appear older than they were,” wrote Dedham Police Sgt. Michael Buckley in the report. “More instructions were given such as they were not to consume any alcohol. They were told if they were asked for ID to leave the establishment. No statements were to be made to persuade the sale.”

Operatives ordered a Bud Light at the Dedham Hilton lobby bar, a Bud Light draft beer at Wicked Pizza and bought a six-pack of Bud Light bottles from East Dedham Liquors, according to the report.

Forty/ other Dedham businesses passed the sting operations.

At the end of Thursday’s meeting there was one more alcohol-related item to address, according to MacDonald. The Tahiti Restaurant was alleged to have served to a minor and required a hearing, she said.

The hearing will be scheduled in February.

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