Bubba’s Bones license suspended
BRECKENRIDGE – The Breckenridge Liquor Licensing Authority suspended Bubba’s Bones’ liquor license for 27 days for a drug deal that allegedly took place at the barbecue restaurant.
The board agreed to place 20 days in abeyance, meaning that if the restaurant complies with all liquor laws in the next year, the owners won’t have to close the bar for the remaining 20 days.
The restaurant has until Oct. 1 to serve the remaining seven days.
The decision came after four hours of testimony in a show cause hearing, a quasi-judicial function where police and the licensee offer evidence.
The hearing was held after police arrested four people in connection with cocaine sales, one of which allegedly took place in Bubba’s Bones at 110 S. Ridge while the owners were out of town.
The employees alleged to have sold the drugs no longer work at the establishment.
In connection with the same case, the liquor board voted 3-1 last month to allow Angel’s Hollow owners Lee and Deb Walker to keep their license because testimony at that hearing indicated a drug transaction might have taken place in the street, and not in their establishment.
The Walkers are awaiting a preliminary hearing in connection with drug sales.
Neighborhood bar and restaurant owners attended the meeting to show their support for Bubba’s Bones owner Kat Bortz. Bortz was not available for comment Tuesday.
Most of the board leaned toward a more lenient punishment.
“On one hand, it’s a serious offense,” said Jim Lamb, a town councilmember appointed to the liquor board.
“On the other hand, it’s a first offense. On one hand, it was the employees of the business that were doing it, but the question is, can you prove the owner knew anything about it? From what I saw, it was really clear to me the liquor license holder was not aware it was going on.”
Board member Chris Kulick agreed.
“I thought it was clear that they were victims,” he said. “They were out of town and (some of) the employees took advantage of the situation. Under the letter of the law, employees and the owner are viewed the same way. They couldn’t slide out without anything happening.”
Colorado law doesn’t differentiate between liquor license holders, owners or employees when it comes to drugs.
“The law’s approach is, if it happens on your watch, you are responsible as a liquor license holder,” Lamb said.
“You answer for them. This sent out a big wake-up call to the restaurant and bar community: You are accountable for your employees’ actions. Bar owners weren’t as aware of this as they should be.”
“This sends the message that this was a serious offense,” Kulick added. “By the same token, it shows we’re going to be fair and review the circumstances around it. They’ve already suffered. They have a kind of scarlet letter with all the publicity they’ve had.”
One of those mitigating circumstances was that, in every staff meeting, Bortz emphasized that she had a zero-tolerance for drug use or sales.
“Her staff meeting notes said, “Drugs, we don’t tolerate it, we have zero tolerance, no drugs, no drugs, no drugs, no drugs,'” Lamb said. “If she thought there was a problem, she was trying to address it.”
Breckenridge police asked board members to suspend the license for 30 days, but the board acknowledged that such a long suspension could easily put someone out of business.
Many viewed the hearing a test for the newly appointed authority.
In the past, the town council has addressed liquor license requests and suspensions, but recently decided potential conflicts of interests among council members could be perceived as unfair.
The new five-person board has met three times, and in the past two meetings has had to address serious liquor license violations.
“It’s been fairly interesting,” Kulick said, adding that the board had to go back to 1974 to find a case when the liquor board, as well as the courts, addressed a liquor license violation.
“We’re dealing with case law, sentencing guidelines, mitigating circumstances. We were probably a little on the light side, but the mitigating circumstances supported the decision in this matter.”
“I thought this was going to be a pretty boring committee,” Lamb said. “It’s been anything but that.”
The board also has suspended the liquor license at the St. Bernard for three days for selling liquor after hours. The owners opted to pay a $560 fine instead.
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