The Backstage Pub and Restaurant will lose its liquor license for three days next month and must pay a $350 fine to the Vermont Liquor Control Department due to an intoxicated patron and the owner drinking on duty, state records show.
The bar’s owner, Vincent Dober, a former Burlington city councilor, also has agreed to submit to a breath test upon request by law enforcement, including liquor control investigators, any time he’s on the premises at 60 Pearl St., according to the settlement agreement for a state investigation.
And there may be more trouble for Backstage – and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6689 with which Dober is affiliated – when the Essex Selectboard considers the annual renewal of liquor licenses at a special meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the town offices.
Essex Police is recommending “if the license for both bars are approved that the selectboard schedule a hearing to consider denial, suspension or restrictions to the liquor licenses,” Chief Rick Garey said in a memo to municipal manager Evan Teich.
Garey wrote the police department has concerns about Backstage and the VFW Post because of “multiple state license violations.”
Dober is listed as a director for the VFW at 73 Pearl St. on the club’s license renewal. The club is located across the street from the single-story shopping center that houses Backstage.
Garey said Backstage has had more than 20 police-related incidents since its last license renewal. The memo did not outline the type of violations at either establishment. Attempts by The Essex Reporter to reach Garey were unsuccessful on deadline Tuesday.
The third bar seeking a renewal and outside consumption permit is Cody’s Irish Pub and Grille. Garey said police had no concerns about that renewal.
Backstage was scheduled for a state disciplinary hearing in Montpelier on April 11, but Dober and the Vermont Liquor Control Department negotiated the settlement, according to Chief Skyler Genest, VLCD’s director of compliance and enforcement.
State liquor board chairman Martin Manahan of St. Albans signed off on the one-page agreement on behalf of the board.
The weekend suspension will run from the start of business on May 4 to the close of business on May 6, Genest said.
Dober was tending bar on the night of February 21 when investigators got an anonymous tip the owner was working and was highly intoxicated, VLC Sgt. Andy Thibault said in his report. A preliminary breath test showed Dober had an alcohol level of .172 percent, VLC investigator Michael Welch wrote in his report.
“That’s twice the legal limit,” Dober responded when told the test result, Welch reported.
Thibault said Dober indicated he had two drinks earlier that day at the VFW.
A kitchen worker at Backstage reported another bartender had left work earlier that evening because she said the owner was too drunk to work with, Thibault wrote in his report.
Thibault and Welch each noted Dober had tried to ignore both of them when they arrived for the surprise inspection. Thibault was able to get the kitchen worker to phone another bartender to respond to Backstage to take control.
While Dober delayed talking with investigators, Welch watched the crowd and noticed one patron “showing serious signs of intoxication,” Thibault wrote.
A third charge against the bar for allowing gambling on the premises was not pursued, records show. Welch said he spotted charity break open tickets on the bar but couldn’t find any record of Backstage registered with VLCD for supporting a non-profit with the tickets.
Genest said Dober has since come into compliance about break open tickets.
Dober, a Republican, served on the Burlington City Council from 2009-2013 and sat on various council panels, including the ordinance committee, and was chairman of the license committee.
He tried to rejoin the council in a special election last summer but lost to Democrat Ali Dieng, 610-302. Democrat Tom Ayres had stepped down representing the New North End and moved to Randolph.
Dober declined comment when reached by The Reporter at the bar Monday night.