WATERBURY — Nectar’s has agreed to a two-day suspension of its liquor license and a $750 fine to settle charges brought against its liquor license by the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery following a shooting outside of the bar last year.
The bar was facing the suspension or revocation of its license after state liquor control authorities argued bar staff should have called police instead of taking possession of the alleged shooter’s firearm before returning it to him.
The alleged shooter, Rashad Nashid, is facing state and federal charges over the Feb. 26, 2018, shooting that seriously injured a bystander, Chelsi Parker, 27, of Essex Junction. Both the federal and state charges against Nashid are pending.
The Board of Liquor and Lottery unanimously accepted a proposed settlement during a June 5 meeting in Waterbury and finalized the agreement Monday. Nectar’s will serve its suspension on July 16 and 17.
Under the agreement, Nectar’s agrees the Department of Liquor and Lottery could prove the allegations by a preponderance of evidence. But the agreement was not an admission of liability from Nectar’s or a concession by the department that its allegations were not well-founded.
“To avoid delay, uncertainty, inconvenience and the expense of litigation, licensee and DLL, with approval of the board, have agreed to settle this matter as described above,” the agreement states.
The agreement will remain part of Nectar’s enforcement record and “may be used for purposes of determining sanctions in any future liquor licensing enforcement matter.”
Sandra Strempel, the attorney for Nectar’s, had argued that it is not against the law for individuals to carry firearms into a bar, and that the bar did not have the authority to confiscate and keep property from customers.
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Police say Nashid gave the gun used in the shooting to a Nectar’s bouncer after Nashid got into an altercation with two men — Dennis and Carl Martin — inside the bar. The bouncer returned the gun to Nashid as Nashid prepared to leave the bar.
Later that night, Nashid opened fire after confronting the Martin brothers outside the bar.
Parker, 27, was hospitalized at the University of Vermont Medical Center for three weeks after being shot in the lung.
She has filed a civil suit against Nectar’s seeking damages. That case is currently in discovery.
The state liquor control authorities had charged that Nectar’s violated regulation 36, which requires licensed institutions to control the conduct of individuals in their establishments and to ensure the safety of its patrons.
“No licensee shall permit or suffer any disturbances, brawls, fighting or illegal activity upon the licensed premises; nor shall a licensee permit or suffer such premises to be conducted in a manner as to render such premises or the streets, sidewalks, parking lots or highways adjacent thereto a public nuisance,” the regulation states.
Martin Manahan, the chair of the liquor and lottery board, said the agreement would result in a financial hit for Nectar’s as a penalty, but that the bar had a good record and Nashid had left the bar hours before the shooting.
“I think based on the evidence we had available, it was a win-win for both sides,” he said.
Manahan said the two day suspension would result in an estimated loss of $8,000 in business for the bar, along with the $750 fine. Nectar’s protocol now includes calling the authorities if a similar situation were to occur.
“We feel like they’ve gotten the message,” Manahan said.
Skyler Genest, the Department of Liquor Control’s director of compliance and enforcement, said his office believes the documented enforcement action would hold Nectar’s accountable in ensuring a similar situation would not occur again.
“We had no lingering public safety threats, we didn’t believe this was part of a pattern of behavior on behalf of this licensee,” Genest said. “As the title of my office implies, compliance with our laws and regulations is our utmost goal, and the state ultimately believed that this settlement agreement would ensure compliance.”
Strempel said while Nectar’s does not believe it violated any regulations, the bar decided the settlement was the best way to move forward.
“Nectar’s continues to believe they did not do anything that was inappropriate and they handled the situation as best they could knowing what they knew then,” Strempel said. “I don’t think anyone would have anticipated what happened a couple of hours later.”
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Noel Donnellan, a co-owner of the bar, did not return a request from comment from VTDigger.
Strempel said the bar shared the widespread concern for the victim and was working hard to continue to ensure a safe environment in its establishment. She said Nectar’s has a good record with state liquor control officials.
For a highly patronized bar that has been in business for a long time, Nectar’s has a “relatively unblemished” record, Genest said.
In a motion in the case, Strempel argued that it is not unlawful for patrons to carry firearms into licensed facilities and that the department had no regulations relating to weapons or when a facility is required to call police.
Genest said the state believed that Parker’s gunshot wound could have been avoided if the bar had called police. Public safety was threatened due to Nectar’s inaction, Genest said, and bar staff should have called police after a firearm was brandished in the bar.
“Regardless or the legality or illegality, we kind of operated on a platform of common sense,” Genest said. “If there was a fire in an establishment, we would assume that licensee would call the fire department to handle the incident.”
The regulation does not take into account the outcomes that result from bars’ actions, Genest said. Bars “fairly frequently” face a $260 fine for violations of regulation 36, Genest said, often after bar fights.
“I think you could make an argument that this wasn’t lenient, it was in fact harsh, for a violation of regulation 36,” he said.
Manahan said the board considered the violation of the rule, not the aftermath of that violation, in determining penalties.
“We’re looking at the violation of the rule, we’re not looking at the altercation afterwards, that’s up to the state’s attorney and the Burlington Police Department,” he said.
Genest said the state has updated its training on how bar employees should handle incidents involving firearms after finding credence in the bar’s argument that its training was lacking.
“It may seem intuitive and common sense, but our direction would be to notify the local authorities,” he said. “Call the police to get assistance to deal with the incident.”
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