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LLC v. District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

August 8, 2019

1215 CT, LLC t/a Rosebar Lounge, Petitioner,
v.
District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, Respondent.

          Submitted October 18, 2018

          On Petition for Review of an Order of the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board 16-251-00125

          Paul J. Kiernan and Kristina A. Crooks were on the brief for petitioner.

          Karl A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Loren L. AliKhan, Solicitor General, Stacy L. Anderson, Acting Deputy Solicitor General at the time the brief was filed, and Richard S. Love, Senior Assistant Attorney General, were on the brief for respondent.

          Before Thompson and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Nebeker, Senior Judge.

          Thompson, Associate Judge

         Petitioner 1215 CT, LLC t/a Rosebar Lounge ("Rosebar") seeks review of an April 26, 2017, decision and order of the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board ("the Board") that imposed a $4, 000 fine and a seven-day suspension of Rosebar's liquor license for a violation of D.C. Code § 25-823(a)(6) (2012 Repl. And 2019 Supp.).[1] Specifically, the Board found that on May 1, 2016, Rosebar "violated the terms of its security plan related to the use of force . . . ."

         Rosebar acknowledges for purposes of its petition that the Board's factual findings are adequately supported by the record, but argues that the Board incorrectly applied § 25-823 when it found that a single violation of Rosebar's security plan (the "Security Plan") on file with the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration ("ABRA") constituted a violation of § 25-823(a)(6). For the reasons that follow, we affirm the Board's decision.

         I.

         Rosebar operates at 1215 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., and holds a Class CT License. On August 8, 2013, it submitted to ABRA its Security Plan, which describes strategies to be used to deal with uncooperative patrons and altercations that may arise between patrons. In pertinent part, Rosebar's Security Plan provides that:

Staff cannot legally use force against a person unless in self-defense or defense of others from imminent harm . . . . At our venue staff may not use restraints or control holds; . . . tackling; . . . piling on top; . . . [or] pain compliance holds.
. . .
Escorting a patron out of a venue involves the use of professional verbal commands and a polite explanation of why they are being asked to leave[.]
The staff member should warn the guest that they must leave the premises immediately or be subject to arrest by the police. If the ejected patron attacks anyone, reasonable force can be used in self-defense.
. . .
There may come times when deviation may be necessary to ensure the safety of our patrons and staff. Your supervisors will inform you of such cases if necessary.

         The Board found that during an incident on May 1, 2016 (the "May 2016 incident"), Rosebar violated the provisions of its Security Plan related to the use of force and the ejection of patrons. The incident, which was captured on video footage reviewed by the Board, involved patron Zunnobia Hakir and Rosebar security guard Bobby Noupa. The Board found that the first use of force occurred after Mr. Noupa asked Ms. Hakir to leave a section of the establishment in the wake of complaints that she had caused trouble at a table. After Ms. Hakir leaned down to retrieve an item from her anklet pouch and then stood back up, Mr. Noupa pushed Ms. Hakir away from him. Mr. Noupa testified before the Board that he did not know what Ms. Hakir had in her hand and believed that she was attacking him, and in response, he "turned her around and decided to escort her out of the establishment." The Board found that Mr. Noupa did that by "wrap[ping] up [Ms. Hakir's] arms from behind by sticking his arms under her armpits" and then "walk[ed] her out of the establishment while maintaining the hold from behind." The Board found that Ms. Hakir "did not have a weapon in her hands" and concluded that Mr. Noupa could not reasonably have feared for his safety and that his use of force was unjustified.

         The Board found that the second use of force occurred when Mr. Noupa, with Ms. Hakir in tow, approached the staircase leading to the establishment's main entrance. Mr. Noupa proceeded to pull Ms. Hakir down the stairs by her arms, so that she either was dragged or fell to the landing in the middle of the divided staircase. The Board found that Mr. Noupa's conduct was "disproportionate, excessive, and unreasonable," could ...


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