Restaurateur Anthony Prifitera is scaling back his beer business.
The owner of Elm City mainstay — and now booze-barren — Naples Pizza and Restaurant sold his popular East Rock restaurant Humphrey’s East last week after authorities suspended its liquor permit.
The eight-day suspension and $2,025 fine were imposed after the state Liquor Control Commission found Prifitera guilty in June 2002 of two counts of sale of alcohol to a minor, LCC Director John Suchy said. The restaurant’s penalty was deferred pending an appeal by the restaurant, which Prifitera’s attorneys dropped this January. Prifitera did not respond to repeated phone messages left this week.
In January 2001, two underage Southern Connecticut State University students were caught by SCSU police during a campus disturbance and said they were drinking that night at Humphrey’s, Suchy said.
“[The LCC] determined that a disturbance had occurred on the campus of the SCSU and as a result of that occurrence it was determined that two minors had been at [Humphrey’s] prior to the disturbance and that they had been served alcohol,” Suchy said.
Humphrey’s had a reputation on the SCSU campus for serving alcohol to minors. When asked about underage drinking at the East Rock hangout, SCSU freshman Ryan Sura said “I believe it.”
The restaurant’s suspension has been served and the fine has been paid, Suchy said. Prifitera sold the restaurant during the suspension and it re-opened Saturday night under new management.
This is not Prifitera’s first run-in with authorities. In the fall of 2001, the state suspended Naples’s liquor license after a September 2001 raid by LCC agents found the restaurant was illegally selling liquor to minors. When Prifitera did not pay a $12,500 fine in December 2001, the LCC revoked the restaurant’s alcohol license.
The former Yale hot-spot famous for “Freshmen Thursdays,” when students — many of them underage — were served pitchers of beer and pizza pies, has remained dry ever since. Naples, frequently packed with masses of thirsty frosh, became a tradition of past Yale classes with its Billy Joel-blaring jukebox and pine booths sporting the hand-carved memories of drunken nights past.
While Prifitera has taken steps to turn the taps back on at the pizzeria, his efforts have so far been unsuccessful.
During its suspension, Humphrey’s was renovated and a new menu was developed, said the restaurant’s new manager, Pat Criscio. Criscio hired 25 new workers and designed a new policy for serving alcohol, wherein the entire restaurant staff from bartenders to busboys check identification.
“We took over as new owners and we got a fresh start,” Criscio said. “Too many college kids have fake IDs which are undetectable to our management. We have a tough policy now.”
Criscio, who has experience in managing corporate restaurants such as T.G.I. Friday’s, said he will abide by the law and try to keep people safe.
“What happened here before is not my concern,” Criscio said. “We want to do it correctly by the law. We’re not going to let that happen here ever again.”