Toad’s will close in May

Toad’s Place will close for most of the summer and pay thousands of dollars to the state as a penalty for serving alcohol to underage patrons.

In an agreement reached Thursday between the Connecticut Liquor Control Commission and Toad’s Place, the popular New Haven nightclub will be fined $90,000 and be forced to close for 90 days beginning May 6. Toad’s was raided last November by police who found 87 underage patrons in possession of alcohol.

Police escort partyers out of Toad’s Place on Oct. 31. The popular nightclub recently reached a compromise with the state on its charges of underage drinking.
Jeff White
Police escort partyers out of Toad’s Place on Oct. 31. The popular nightclub recently reached a compromise with the state on its charges of underage drinking.

The compromise deal followed several months of negotiations between the nightclub’s lawyer and the Liquor Control Commission, or LCC, Toad’s owner Brian Phelps said. Late this September, the LCC rejected an earlier proposal by Toad’s to close for 70 days and pay a $70,000 fine for its violations.

Phelps said while the penalty will cost him about $200,000 in lost profits and fines, he thinks the deal was fair.

“My hands were tied, [and] this [penalty] is what they wanted, [but] I think it was a fair deal,” he said.

The LCC could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

As a result of the 90-day closure, Phelps said, he will be forced to cancel concerts, but he said he is relieved his club was able to schedule the majority of the closing period during the summer, when local universities would not be in session.

“Hopefully the students will be relieved to know that we will be open during the semester,” he said.

Rebecca Samel ’07, said she is upset that Toad’s will be closed during her last weekend as an undergraduate — the 90 day period will include Senior Week, the week preceding University Commencement that many graduating seniors spend in New Haven — but she thinks students will find other ways to entertain themselves during their last few days at Yale.

“It’s disappointing, but I am sure we will find something to do,” said Samel, who said she frequents Toad’s Place regularly. “But it would have been going out with a bang, [and] that it is closed for senior week is unfortunate as it affects seniors who are all over 21.”

Khay Nguyen ’07 said she does not frequent Toad’s very often but said the closure will nonetheless have a negative impact on senior nightlife.

“It will affect a bunch of the senior class,” Nguyen said. “It’s kind of an essential [nightspot]. Not having that as an option sucks.”

To combat underage drinking at his nightclub, Phelps said he has retrained his door-staff to more effectively recognize fake identification cards.

On busy nights, especially those that are heavily student-populated, he said his nightclub now employs two guards at the door to check identification, to take a picture of the identification together with the patron, and to issue wristbands at the door so that no customers sneaking in side doors can be served drinks at the bar.

Under state law, Phelps said, he has no choice but to close the New Haven nightclub for the 90-day suspension period because he has a cafe license. Had the club possessed a restaurant license, he said, the club could have remained open and just suspended the service of alcohol.

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.

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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