SLA Issues Emergency Suspension for Exempt Firemen's Association in Poughkeepsie
Narcotic Sales, Violence, Illegal Liquor Sales, and Gambling Leads to License Suspension
Albany, NY – The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) summarily suspended the license of the Exempt Firemen’s Association at 200 Mansion Street in Poughkeepsie, NY today. The Exempt Fireman’s Association is licensed as a club, a license that is only issued to not-for-profit organizations, who by law may only serve alcoholic beverages to members of the organization and guests. The Exempt Fireman’s Association has been licensed since 1933, and is the first club license issued within Dutchess County. The suspension was ordered by Chairman Vincent Bradley and Commissioner Lily Fan at a special meeting of the Full Board on Friday July 13th. Effective immediately, no alcohol may be sold or consumed on the premises.
On January 27, 2018 a fatal shooting occurred outside the Exempt Firemen’s Association following a party taking place inside. When officers from the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department (CPPD) arrived at the scene, they located a victim near the sidewalk outside the premises with multiple gunshot wounds. Officers responding to the scene report they were confronted by approximately 50 unruly, intoxicated patrons who exited the establishment and surrounded the victim by pushing past officers. Multiple patrons refused to comply with police orders to disperse, creating an unsecure scene that required the CPPD to request additional police units from neighboring jurisdictions to control the crowd.
Following this incident, the Poughkeepsie Police received numerous complaints concerning the shooting and other disorderly conduct occurring at the premises, including narcotics sales, illegal gambling, and illegal sales of liquor. The Dutchess County Drug Task Force conducted a two-month investigation at the establishment, sending a confidential informant into the club on at least five separate occasions.
Violations found during the investigation include:
On April 5th the confidential informant purchased crack cocaine from a male inside the bathroom;
On April 11th the confidential informant participated in an illegal dice game for money that was being run by the club’s ABC Officer, the very person responsible for compliance with the ABC law and regulations;
On April 23rd the confidential informant purchased two bottles of Hennessy liquor for off-premises consumption; club licensees are only licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises. The informant also participated in an illegal dice with one of the club’s board members;
On May 18th the informant purchased hydrocodone pills from an individual while standing at the bar; and
On June 7th the informant purchased two bags of marijuana in front of the club’s ABC Officer and another board member and smoked the marijuana on the licensed property with both the ABC Officer and board member.
On June 29th, SLA investigators conducted a joint inspection of the Exempt Firemen’s Association with the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office and the CPPD. During the inspection, the ABC Officer became agitated, yelled at law enforcement personnel while using profanities, and advised all patrons and staff not to cooperate with the inspection. Only after patrons intervened and calmed down the ABC Officer were the investigators able to conduct interviews of the staff and patrons. The ABC Officer, Mr. Christopher Petsas, is an elected member of the Poughkeepsie City Council.
On July 12th the SLA charged the Exempt Firemen’s Association with 13 violations of the ABC Law, including for operating a disorderly premises by allowing the possession, use, and trafficking of a controlled substance, illicit gambling, sales to non-members, illegal alcohol sales, and for becoming a focal point for police attention.
“It is deeply disappointing to see a licensee dedicated to serving firefighters since 1933, possessing Club License number 1, countenancing violence and mayhem with the blessing and participation of the very ABC Officer who has supposedly been selected by both the licensee and the people of Poughkeepsie to uphold the public trust,” said Counsel to the Authority Christopher R. Riano. “I’m grateful for the joint efforts of the SLA, the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Department, and the Poughkeepsie Police Department in putting a stop to the violence and numerous illegal activities at this location before anyone else was gravely injured or killed.”
The State Administrative Procedure Act authorizes a State agency to summarily suspend a license when the agency finds that public health, safety, or welfare requires emergency action. When the SLA summarily suspends a license, it also serves a Notice of Pleading alleging one or more disciplinary violations. In invoking a summary suspension, the SLA has deemed the violation to be sufficiently serious upon initial review to warrant an immediate suspension. The SLA’s decision to summarily suspend a license is not a final determination on the merits of the case. The licensee is entitled to an expedited administrative law hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. An order of summary suspension remains in effect until such time as it is modified by the SLA or a reviewing Court.
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