The city liquor board today imposed a one-week suspension of the liquor license for the political club headed by City Councilman Dominic Mimi DiPietro. The suspension stemmed from a March 9 incident involving approximately 240 juveniles who participated in a drunken party at the club.
The board dismissed the most serious charge of allowing juveniles to consume alcoholic beverages on the premises. That charge was dropped because the club's liquor license was not used to sell or dispense liquor to the minors, according to Aaron L. Stansbury, the executive secretary of the board.
The suspension of the license resulted from the reveler's disorderly conduct during the party, which was held at the United Democratic Club of the 26th Ward located at 3723 Claremont Ave. in Highlandtown.
Stansbury said a one-day liquor license was not obtained by the person or persons who rented the hall for the party. The failure to obtain the one-day license is a violation of the city's liquor law.
The colorful, 85-year-old DiPietro did not attend this morning's board hearing because of a meeting with constituents over a neighborhood problem.
"Does this mean I can't have my meetings?" DiPietro asked when informed of the decision.
Looking at a calendar, DiPietro figured out that the suspension, which starts Friday, Sept. 28, would end on Friday Oct. 5 just in time for the club's regular monthly meeting the next day.
"Well, that doesn't hurt," DiPietro said. "We can still give 'em the beer. They [the club members] don't drink the beer like they used to at the meetings. We used to give 'em a half-keg, but now we got them new members and they want to drink Coke, so we only give them a quarter-keg."
The board ordered the club to come up with a better procedure to rent the club's hall and to have the Fire Department issue a crowd capacity sign.
The club also had been cited for not following proper fire and safety requirements.
DiPietro maintains that the party was held without his knowledge.
"It was a bunch of girls that did it [rented the hall]," said DiPietro. "They pulled the hood over our eyes. We didn't know there was gonna be a bunch of kids in there."
Michael Flannery, a club member and one of the liquor licensees along with DiPietro and John Trotts, told the board that the club is deciding whether to continue renting the hall or to turn the rental duties over to a professional caterer.
Board chairman George G. Brown "strongly urged" the club to come up with better procedures if it does continue to rent the hall "because it is clear there was a breakdown in responsibility within your structure."
Flannery said if the hall is rented, the club will ask for higher fees and draw up a written lease contract which will describe the event and contain all appropriate liquor board regulations. He told the board the hall is rented out two or three times a month "mostly for weddings, first communion parties and such."
Melvin Kodenski, the attorney representing the club, said that the councilman's wife, Frances, usually handled the rental but "she has been seriously ill for some time."
Kodenski noted to the board the club had no past liquor board violations and that the party was not a club-sanctioned function.
The violations stem from a incident in which police were called to the club around 9:40 p.m. March 9 because of a disturbance.
Officer Frederick W. Kinder Jr., of the Southeastern District, was dispatched to the club. He told the board that he observed "a large crowd of juveniles estimated at about 240 and mostly between the age of 15-17" along with large quantities of beer and liquor and a lot of broken glass on the floor."
Kinder interviewed a 19-year-old woman, who identified herself at Tracy Lynn Allen, and who explained that she had rented the hall from DiPietro. Kinder stopped the party and ordered everyone off the premises "because it was so overcrowded that I couldn't even walk around."
Kodenski told the board that an adult woman called the DiPietro's home and asked to rent the hall. But it was unclear whether that person or Allen paid the rental fee and picked up the keys to the hall.
Earlier this week, DiPietro said the police should have arrested the juveniles " 'cause they was common, rotten no-goods."
"This club's been there since 1926 and we don't do nothin' bad, we don't allow no foolin' around there," DiPietro said. "We only help people, help the neighborhood."
A reporter's efforts to reach Allen were unsuccessful. Calls through the telephone number she gave to police were answered by a woman who said Allen didn't live there anymore.
The woman, who would only identify herself as the landlady, said they moved out just after that thing happened at the club." She said Allen left no forwarding address.