State upholds liquor license removal for 2 Plaza bars
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.”