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Cabaret, Carrabba's Slapped With 3-Day Liquor License Suspensions

Both Route 1 establishments were issued suspensions of their licenses due to prior violations within the past year. The Cabaret and Carrabba's failed a recent alcohol compliance check.

The and have each been slapped with three-day suspensions of their liquor licenses by the city Licensing Board.

The two establishments were among a group of six to appear before the board on June 25 after having failed a random alcohol compliance check (or sting) on May 23 by Peabody police and undercover operatives.

In each case, an underage customer -- one of the operatives -- was sold a beer without being asked for an ID.

, , and all had a first offense and were issued a warning and encouraged to train their employees if they hadn't done so already, but both the Cabaret and Carrabba's had violations within the past year as well.

And at Carrabba's, both the manager on duty that day and the managing partner for the Peabody operation lost their jobs in addition to the bartender.

Skip Jackson, the regional operations director, said the company takes the issue very seriously -- alcohol service training (TIPS certfication) is part of the hiring process -- but it was the second and final strike for the local management, which saw a similar violation on June 27, 2011.

"Really, it's a failure of leadership," Jackson said, noting the excuse he was given was that the bartender was "too busy" at that time to check an ID. He said there was some other internal issues going on as well.

Jackson said he hired a new managing partner and re-trained the entire staff of 60 in addition to posting signs inside that warns customers they need to show an ID if born after 1990.

"Everyone needs to be on their toes, period," he said. "It's not rocket science, it's simple hospitality."

With 22 percent of sales coming from alcohol and a busy operation situated next door to the , Jackson said, the restaurant couldn't afford to just close for three straight days.

Board member Charles Holden said Jackson would need to appeal to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission to try and get a fine instead of a suspension. He said the ABCC tends to issue fines on appeal, but at the local level, the board can only suspend or revoke licenses.

If the ABCC did choose to impose a fine it would use a formula based on the amount of sales over the length of the suspension.

"For six dollars and five cents that kid's going to cost me a lot of money," Jackson said, referring to the bartender he fired.

Board clerk Julie Rydzewski said on Tuesday, however, that Carrabba’s legal team, which was not present at the hearing, also advised Jackson the ABCC may decide against replacing the suspension with a fine and that he had already admitted the restaurant's guilt in the matter.

Rydzewski said they asked instead to just close July 3, 4 and 5 instead of the original dates (Aug. 1, 2 and 3) that Jackson asked for off-handedly, assuming there would be an appeal.

Frank Green, the manager at the Cabaret, was similarly contrite -- "Guilty as charged, absolutely no excuse," he said, adding that he employs 10 doormen (ex-military and former police officers) whose sole job is to make sure everyone who gets inside is 21 or older.

Board members were also surprised, noting Green "runs a tight ship" at the nightclub.

Green explained that on this occasion, one man went for a smoke and the man inside the door thought the waiting patron had already checked out. The underage operative was not asked for an ID by the bartender, which board members asked Green to consider instituting as a policy going forward.

The board allowed Green to choose his dates for suspension -- July 2, 3 and 4 -- and that consequently means the entire club has to shut down as well because liquor licenses are linked to general business operations. The same applies to restaurants or other establishments licensed to serve.

"You have stood up as a gentleman and you're a good businessman, so it's the least we can do," said board chairman Minas Dakos, referring to allowing Green to choose the dates.

Martino's Liquors owner Frank Martino also informed the board that he fired the employee responsible for his business' infraction. He said the man has a lot of years as a bartender and worked in that capacity at the Topsfield Commons function hall, which Martino operates as well.

"He was lazy and couldn't be bothered to ask for an ID," Martino said at last week's hearing.

"You kind of did us a favor because it could have been disastrous," he said, noting there is an open bar at the Topsfield site.

He said has instructed staff now to ask for IDs on anyone who looks 35 or younger and there is a point-of-sale computer system in place that requires entry of a birthdate. All the staff are TIPS certified.

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