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Salem licensing board hands out 10-day suspension to local pub

Posted by Ryan Mooney  November 16, 2012 10:41 AM

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Peter Kelly, owner of Murphy's Restaurant and Pub, admitted to the Salem licensing board during a hearing on Thursday night that September was a bad month, and the board made certain that his November will be worse.

The licensing board handed down a 10-day suspension of the popular bar and eatery's liquor license after its special investigator, police Detective Sergeant James Page, outlined four incidents in September, three involving underage patrons that were allegedly served at the establishment, that required police response to handle issues with overly intoxicated parties leaving Murphy's.

In two of the incidents, police said Murphy's played a role in officers spending the last two Fridays of September searching for women reported missing. Both women were found safe the next day, and both were under 21 years old and told to police that they had been drinking at Murphy's the night before.

The suspension begins the day after Thanksgiving, and carries through December 2. Murphy's can reopen on December 3.

Every time we've seen you it's noise, over serving, underage, it's always three things," board member John Casey said. "I don't know what we have to say to you to make you realize that we're just not going to tolerate this."

The first missing person's report, filed on September 21 just before 2 a.m., according to Page, required the response of all on-duty police units, as well as two fire units, two Salem State police units, and a K-9 unit from the Essex County Sheriff's Department.

The 20-year-old girl, who later told police that she had been drinking at Murphy's and did not remember leaving, was apparently too intoxicated to find her way to her own home, but she found her way to a home. Two of them, actually.

Nearly an hour before the missing persons report was made, police had responded to a report of a break-in at a residence on Hazel Street, according to a report prepared by Page. The residents, a husband and wife, awoke to find a young female in their home, naked from the waist down, who had climbed in through their window and believed she was in her own home.

When the girl made contact with police the next day to close the missing persons report, police determined that she was the same girl that had entered the home on Hazel Street. Page's report indicates that after leaving the Hazel Street home in a daze, she ended up spending the night at the residence of a male party, who she also did not know.

The second missing girl, a 19-year-old, ended up at the MBTA station the next morning, not knowing how she got there, and police say she may have been sexually assaulted. She told police that she had no ID the night before when she went to Murphy's with two friends who were of legal drinking age. She was allowed in with a black "X" on her hand to signify that she was under 21, and proceeded to consume drinks and shots purchased for her.

Police also responded to a large fight at the top of Washington Street September 8, resulting in the arrest of seven individuals for disorderly conduct, all of whom related to police that they had spent the evening at Murphy's. 

And on Sept. 22, officers stopped a vehicle driving the wrong way down Central Street that resulted in the underage driver being arrested on an OUI charge, and an underage passenger being hospitalized.

The driver, who was in possession of a fake ID, told police that she had been drinking at Murphy's, and two witnesses told police that the passenger that was unconscious in the back seat had vomited both inside and outside the bar.

Five responding officers to the four incidents testified in support of Page's report during the nearly hour-long hearing. Kelly had no attorney present.

"To me it's nothing but over serving of alcohol, and that's unacceptable," board member Rick Lee said. "You know better than that, and your crew knows better than that.

"Your whole future in this city is in jeopardy because of these instances...I'm absolutely mortified by all this."

Page made sure to note that Kelly has been cooperative since his investigation began, and Kelly, who said very little throughout the hearing, told the board he takes responsibility for everything.

Kelly, who refused comment to reporters after the hearing, offered staff changes, and an over-reliance on ID scanner technology as explanations for the serving of underage patrons.

"But that still doesn't make it right," Kelly said.

The board briefly discussed beginning the suspension today, but Lee, acting out of empathy for a business owner who has been in the city for years, wanted to wait until after Thanksgiving out of concern for extra food and provisions the restaurant may have acquired for the holiday.

Last week, the board revoked the license of another downtown restaurant and bar, Bangkok Paradise, after the owner was arrested in October and charged with two counts of drug trafficking after allegedly selling oxycodone to an undercover informant in his restaurant on two separate occasions over the summer.

Ryan Mooney can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.

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