Fate of Toad’s remains unclear after LCC raid

The scramble for solutions continues for Toad’s Place, a popular nightclub still dealing with the legal fallout of a Nov. 5 raid by Connecticut Liquor Control Commission agents, who found 87 underage patrons in possession of alcohol.

Late last month, the LCC rejected an initial compromise proposal, which was offered by the nightclub to cut down an otherwise lengthy judicial process that may result in harsh penalties. Under the proposal made by Toad’s representative James Torello, the nightclub would voluntarily suspend its liquor license for 70 days starting May 21 of next year and pay a fine of $70,000, according to minutes released by the LCC after its meeting on Sept. 26. Liquor Control Agent Joseph Raia confirmed Monday night that a compromise was not reached between the LCC and the York Street nightclub during the meeting.

Though Raia could not comment on the specific details of the investigation into Toad’s, he said it is common practice for the LCC and the violating party to engage in negotiations aimed at reaching an extra-judicial compromise.

“There’s usually a negotiation process involved, where one side can offer a proposal and the other side can offer a counter-proposal, [but] the commission makes the final decision,” he said.

Toad’s Place owner Brian Phelps declined to comment, and LCC Director John Suchy was not available for comment on Monday night.

This is not the first time that the nightclub, a venue that hosts popular musical artists and holds dance parties several nights a week, has been raided following reports of underage drinking. In September 2001, Toad’s suffered a similar inspection and the nightclub was cited for multiple instances of serving alcohol to minors. The club was fined $25,000 and was forced to shut down for one week after being cited by the commission for 12 specific violations of Connecticut liquor statutes.

While Phelps has remained silent about possible penalties, he told the News in the days following last fall’s raid that he would avoid a complete closure of the club if possible.

Some students echoed Phelps’ sentiment and said the temporary loss of Toad’s, which hosts weekly dance parties and pop artists, would negatively impact student life.

“[It’s the] removal of one extra fun thing to do on Saturday night,” John Beski ’07 said. “I think the student body would react adversely.”

Jessica Bian ’08 said she thinks Toad’s is central to the city’s weekend entertainment scene, and many Yalies would find it hard to replace if the Commission forces it to close.

Since its opening over 30 years ago, Toad’s has featured many popular artists, including the Rolling Stones.

“The attraction of Toad’s for Yale students is that it is reliable and trustworthy,” Bian said. “[But] people are going to go out no matter what, [and they] would disperse to more [local] bars.”

Other New Haven establishments have also come under investigation for underage drinking in recent years. Naples Pizzeria, which was raided by the LCC in October 2001, had its liquor license revoked and paid $12,500 worth of fines to the Commission.

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