The state of Connecticut will close Toad’s Place for two days later this month, after the state’s Liquor Control Commission’s (LCC) charged the business with selling alcohol to minors.
According to the LCC, the historic nightclub and music venue was found guilty of selling alcohol to a minor and allowing a minor in the bar area. Claudette Carveth, the director of communications for the state’s Department of Consumer Protection, which oversees the LCC, said that the citations were filed after a joint inspection by LCC agents and New Haven Police Department officers on Sept. 23. The club will face a $4,000 fine for the violations and will be forced to close all operations on March 24 and 25. Though dance parties typically do not fall on Monday or Tuesday nights, Toad’s owner Brian Phelps did say that Mondays usually feature jazz musicians, and an event slated for that Tuesday night will be rescheduled for a later date.
“On Sept. 23, 2013, the Liquor Control Division and the New Haven [Police Department] conducted a joint inspection of the premises,” Carveth said in an email to the News. “Agents were part of a high visibility patrol that evening, and were not in an undercover capacity.”
Together, over the past few months, the LCC and NHPD have been cracking down on local bars and clubs to curb a recent rash of gun violence, brawls and alcohol-related incidents around the city. NHPD spokesman David Hartman said that the department works closely with administrators from local universities including Yale, Quinnipiac and Southern Central Connecticut State to identify venues that are frequented by students who could engage in underage drinking.
Hartman added that, in addition to the inspections conducted by police with representatives from the LCC, department officers check in on the city’s bars weekly during peak business hours to make sure that bartenders and patrons are following the law. When LCC agents are unavailable to conduct the bar checks, police are joined by members of city health departments.
“We can act on underage drinking, and we do so regularly,” Hartman said. “We report our findings when we do our smaller inspections — anything substantial to the state DCP. They are the enforcement arm, the administrative end of this operation.”
He added that the process following an alcohol-related citation involves a hearing and appeals process that goes through the DCP, often taking months at a time. Documents from the DCP show that the LCC went through several rounds of negotiations with James Torello, the club’s venue permittee, before agreeing on the final sanctions.
On Feb. 11, Torello’s offer for a $7,000 fine was rejected. One week later, the LCC decided upon the two-day closure and $4,000 fine, rather than pursuing a hearing for the case.
Phelps said that this type of policing occurs often in the downtown New Haven area, especially in recent months. Usually the police check IDs inside the venues, Phelps added.
This is not the first time Toad’s has faced charges related to liquor laws. In November 2005, state authorities detained 87 underage patrons at Toad’s. Though none were arrested at the time, the raid ultimately resulted in a $90,000 fine and a 90-day forced suspension during the summer 2007. Most recently, in October 2010, a joint NHPD-LCC inspection found two underage patrons to be consuming alcohol. In connection to that raid, the club’s liquor license was revoked for five days and Toad’s endured a $5,000 fine.
Eight of 10 students interviewed said that they did not believe this would negatively impact Toad’s business or their experiences, especially considering the days do not fall on typical “going out” nights.
Noah Siegel ’15 added that, even if the liquor license was suspended on a Wednesday or Saturday night, he believes most students would still attend Toad’s and that the suspension would only dissuade a few upperclassmen from choosing to attend the nightclub.
Toad’s has occupied its location at 300 York St. since 1975.