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Pub owner cites video evidence

Claire Heininger | Monday, April 19, 2004

Videotape evidence of patrons being forced into The Library Irish Pub during a police raid early Friday morning may mean lesser penalties for the bar but will not change patrons’ citations or punishments, police confirmed.Lt. Greg Deitchley, spokesman for the District 1 office of the Indiana State Excise Police, said the video would have no bearing on the approximately 27 citations issued to 17 minors, as those tickets were confirmed based on evidence police compiled as patrons exited the scene. Pub owner Chuck Hammons, however, said he will submit the video – used to track all patrons’ presentation of identification – to his attorneys to support his claim that several of the minors were actually pushed inside by police before his employees could verify their proof of legal age.Hammons “may have a defense” based on that evidence, Deitchley said, but maintained that excise police were not at fault.Since The Library’s premises start where the sidewalk meets the front door – leading to a vestibule where patrons wait before showing I.D. – excise police determined that all patrons in the waiting area would be included in the sweep. Deitchley said that police will present a case report explaining these conditions to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor and the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, who will use this information and Hammons’ video evidence to determine if the bar should be held accountable.”That’s a part of [Hammons’] premises and underagers shouldn’t be in the vestibule,” Deitchley said. “That’s not an error on our part.”Hammons did accept partial responsibility for the raid.”It’s my fault as much as theirs I guess,” he said. “As a college bar, all you can do is the best you can do to keep underage people out.”Lt. Marc Mersich of the South Bend Police, who was called to the bust as backup, said Hammons fulfilled his obligations.”He’s doing everything he’s supposed to do, but we have to investigate complaints,” Mersich said.Police have been investigating The Library for several months now, Deitchley confirmed. He said that three additional bars were also targeted Thursday night, based on information that excise had compiled about the establishments’ regular activity.Hammons claimed that officers on the scene told him that one of the locations, the Oyster Bar, was their initial target.”They decided to raid us as an afterthought,” he said.Though The Library was forced to close for a 30-day suspension of its liquor license following a raid April 25, Hammons said that since the number of minors cited dropped from 51 to 17 he doubted a similar outcome this year.”Seventeen is collateral damage,” he said. “I don’t think anything will come of it.”Hammons said he spent over $4,000 on the camera equipment after the first raid in order to thwart the possibility of another, and expressed confidence in his bouncers to turn minors away.”It slows down the line but it is a thorough process,” he said. “This is a good system and obviously it did help some from last year to this year.”And while Boat Club ownership Millennium Enterprises sought damages of $3,000 each from 200 of the 231 patrons busted at the bar on Jan. 24, 2003, Hammons said he would “never” file lawsuits against The Library’s cited customers.”As far as retaliating against the 17 students, no,” he said.