State up­holds liquor li­cense re­moval for 2 Plaza bars

Times Standard (Eureka) - - LO­CAL NEWS - By Shomik Mukher­jee smukher­jee@times-stan­dard. com @ShomikMukh­er­jee on Twit­ter Shomik Mukher­jee can be reached at 707-441-0504.

A state ap­peals board has upheld the re­vo­ca­tion of liquor li­censes at Side­lines and Toby and Jack’s, two Ar­cata Plaza bars ac­cused of serv­ing as drug-deal­ing venues.

In an April 8 meet­ing, the state Depart­ment of Alcohol and Bev­er­age Con­trol’s ap­peals board de­cided to up­hold a de­ci­sion to re­voke the li­censes.

The board had pre­vi­ously called for a more le­nient penalty, cit­ing un­der­ex­am­ined ev­i­dence that Sal­va­tore Costanzo, the bars’ owner, had tried to cor­rect the al­legedly ram­pant drug sales at his es­tab­lish­ments once he learned of them.

“How­ever, now that the Depart­ment has con­sid­ered this ev­i­dence, the Board can­not say that the Depart­ment abused its dis­cre­tion in re­ject­ing it,” the board states in its de­ci­sion.

“In fact, the Depart­ment is well within its dis­cre­tion to de­ter­mine that ap­pel­lant’s mit­i­ga­tion ev­i­dence is out­weighed by ev­i­dence of ag­gra­va­tion — namely ap­pel­lant’s lax ap­proach to man­age­ment of the li­censed premises that re­sulted in re­peated drug sales and ne­go­ti­a­tions by its employees and cor­po­rate of­fi­cer,” the de­ci­sion adds.

Costanzo can ap­peal again, this time to the state District Court of Ap­peals.

The bars will be al­lowed to operate un­til all ap­peals are ex­hausted, though the cur­rent statewide shel­ter-in-place or­der over the coro­n­avirus pan­demic has closed all dine-in bars and res­tau­rants.

At­tor­ney Pa­trik Griego, who has rep­re­sented Costanzo in this mat­ter, did not pro­vide com­ment by dead­line on Fri­day.

Lo­cated on the eastern strip of Ar­cata plaza, the bars have been a down­town main­stay since the 1960s.

But in re­cent years, the state has pur­sued re­vok­ing the bars’ li­censes af­ter a sting op­er­a­tion in 2018 re­vealed al­leged sales of co­caine, ec­stasy and other drugs inside the bars with over­sight of sev­eral bar­tenders.

One of the bar­tenders named in the state’s de­ci­sion is Costanzo’s daugh­ter, whose name was pre­vi­ously on the li­cense.

Lo­cal law en­force­ment has been vo­cal about the high num­ber of 911 calls out of the bars on weekend nights — “Those bars need to close,” Ar­cata Po­lice Chief Brian Ahearn said in De­cem­ber.

In ad­di­tion to Side­lines and Toby and Jack’s, Costanzo also owns Sal’s Myrtle­wood Lounge in Eureka. He op­er­ates the Ar­cata bars’ liquor li­censes as prin­ci­pal of­fi­cer of Genco Olive Oil Com­pany — a name shared by a fic­tional com­pany in Mario Puzo’s novel, “The God­fa­ther.”

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