Toad’s Place, the York Street concert and party hot spot, was shut down for a week starting yesterday and must pay $25,000 in connection with an incident last year in which state Liquor Control Commission officials found several underage patrons hiding in a basement room in order to avoid the authorities.
During a pair of raids last year, liquor officials also turned up eight sales of alcohol to minors, a sale to an intoxicated person, two instances of patrons being served multiple alcoholic beverages at once, and one count of refilling the same beer bottle multiple times, commission administrator Gerald Langlais said. In addition, the investigation uncovered flagrant sanitation violations — such as fruit flies swarming around ready-to-be-served beer bottles — and a failure to keep copies of all records and invoices.
Last Sept. 12, undercover liquor commission agents infiltrated the popular nightclub and observed the bartender selling drinks to people who appeared to be underage. The agents left briefly and then re-entered with a support team to investigate further.
When they came back in, the bartender and a group of patrons were present, but most of the apparent minors were nowhere to be found. Langlais said the agents were confused and asked Matthew Signore, who holds the liquor permit for Toad’s, to show them around the premises. They scoured the main floor and still found no underage drinkers. Then they decided to search the basement.
Signore led agents to an underground hallway with locked rooms on either side. An agent pointed to one of the doors and Signore opened it slowly to reveal a cadre of under-21 customers, many holding glasses of beer and other spirits. Langlais said he thought someone at Toad’s must have spotted the undercover agents and alerted Signore, who then herded the minors into the basement to avoid discovery.
Signore could not be reached for comment, and owner Brian Phelps did not return multiple phone messages.
Commission agents also determined that Toad’s was not living up to its cafe permit, which requires the holder to carry a certain amount of solid food.
“In addition to all the alcohol, all they had was Chex Mix,” Langlais said.
The shutdown elicited mixed reactions from Yalies.
Some, like Missy Blakeley ’03, lamented the temporary loss of a Saturday night staple.
“A Saturday night is not a Saturday night without Toad’s Place,” Blakeley wrote in an e-mail. “I will shed a tear without Toad’s on Saturday.”
Others will not be weeping over the misbehaving establishment any time soon.
“Well, I can’t say I’m particularly fond of the place, but it has its charms,” Patricia Stringel ’03 said in an e-mail. She then identified what she thought might have been another sanitation violation.
“All you have to do is take a walk on York Street at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night and you can smell for yourself,” she said.
Toad’s is not the only local liquor establishment to receive harsh penalties from the liquor commission in recent months. Naples Pizza and Restaurant, a Wall Street mainstay, was hit with a $12,500 fine after many underage liquor sales were observed in March and September 2001. Two years ago, Kavanagh’s was cited with similar violations and forced to close for three days last October.