Friends Say Underage Man Drank At Bar Before Crash Rewster's Serving Policies Examined By Liquor Board

September 19, 1990|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,SUN STAFF

Three friends of a Sykesville man charged with causing a fatal car accident in April told the county liquor board the then-20-year-old was served beer at a Taylorsville restaurant about an hour before the crash.

The three men also testified that they and Robert Kenneth Sauter, who has been charged in connection with the accident, had been drinking beer for several hours at a construction site before going to Rewster's Restaurant and Lounge on Ridge Road.

An attorney for the restaurant said a charge brought by the liquor board that a bartender at Rewster's served alcohol to an underage person should be dropped.

"You have to consider the history of (Rewster's) and the rigidity with which it adheres to the liquor laws and the inconsistencies in the other stories," said Elwood E. Swam of Hampstead, attorney for Rewster's.

In his closing statement Tuesday, Swam said witnesses gave differing testimony about how many beers and what kind of beer they drank that night and whether they were intoxicated.

"This comes back to a credibility issue," he said.

Sauter, now 21, testified that he went to Rewster's on April 9 with three friends who were older than 21 and that they sat at the bar. He said he did not order food, but ordered something to drink three times and was not asked for proof of age.

Liquor board administrator J. Ronald Lau had made an agreement before the hearing with Sauter's attorney, Robert K. Parker of Westminster, not to ask Sauter whether he drank alcohol at Rewster's because of criminal charges pending against Sauter in Carroll Circuit Court.

Sauter is charged with automobile manslaughter, homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated, driving while intoxicated and five other traffic offenses in connection with the accident in Winfield. A trial has been set for Nov. 5.

After Lau questioned Sauter, liquor board member William A. Sapp asked Sauter if he drank alcohol at Rewster's that night. Sauter answered before Parker could stop him, but the answer was stricken from the record.

The bartender working the evening of April 9 when the four men said they went to Rewster's testified he did not remember seeing them in the bar that night.

David Zepp, 38, of Mount Airy, said he has worked as a bartender at Rewster's for nine years and that he always asks people he doesn't know for proof of age. He said he did not know the four men in April.

Rewster's has had no previous liquor law violations, Lau said.

The restaurant faces possible suspension or revocation of its beer, wine and liquor license and fines of up to $2,000 if found guilty. The liquor board will render a written decision within 30 days.

David Thompson, 22, of Woodbine, told liquor board members he was intoxicated when he got to Rewster's with Sauter that night.

In a statement to police the night of the accident, Thompson said he and Sauter and some others had been drinking beer after work at a construction site. Thompson told police that when they ran out of beer around 7:30 p.m., Sauter went to a package store in Taylorsville and bought three six-packs of beer. About an hour later, they decided to go to Rewster's, Thompson said.

Lau said the liquor board did not investigate whether Sauter purchased beer at the package store because it would be hard to press charges against the store. In the absence of witnesses, it would be the salesman's word against Sauter's, Lau said.

Sauter's blood-alcohol level after the accident was .14 percent, state police records show. Under Maryland law, a person is legally drunk if his blood-alcohol level is .10 or higher.

Copyright The Baltimore Sun 1990

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