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Tempe bar, Varsity Tavern, fined $24,000 after liquor license suspended

Posted: 3:21 PM, Aug 07, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-08 16:43:48-04
Varsity Tavern Rodeo Ranch closed

TEMPE, AZ — Varsity Tavern, a bar relatively new to downtown Tempe's Mill Avenue, has agreed to pay a $24,000 fine to the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, among a list of other requirements, after its liquor license was suspended in early July.

The suspension came following a June 29 incident when an intoxicated man fell off the venue's second-story balcony onto the ground, according to a "Consent Agreement and Order" between the bar and the department. You can read the consent agreement, here.

It marks the second time in seven months that the bar's liquor license has been suspended. Varsity Tavern opened in December 2018.

Jeffery Trillo, public information officer for the liquor department, confirmed to ABC15 on Aug. 2 that Varsity Tavern's liquor license was reinstated and "[t]he licensee and delegates reached an amicable agreement with the Department to resolve the case."

As a result, Varsity Tavern's meetings with the Liquor Board and Office of Administrative Hearings that were scheduled for later in August were vacated (Varsity Tavern had appealed the suspension).

Varsity Tavern has apparently reopened since the consent agreement was signed July 25, 2019, according to recent activity on its Facebook page, as well as reports in the Phoenix New Times and Arizona Republic.

ABC15 has attempted to reach the owner of Varsity Tavern for comment, but our messages have not been returned. A message to Varsity Tavern's public relations firm also went unanswered.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Around 1:30 a.m. on June 29, police bicycle officers found a man on the ground near 5th Street and Mill Avenue after he'd apparently fallen from the balcony. A police spokesperson said alcohol was a factor in the incident and that the man, who was not identified, was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The Arizona Republic reports that the man broke his elbow and hip.

According to the consent agreement, the man's blood alcohol level was 0.27.

The next day, Varsity Tavern posted a note with a statement to the outside of its building saying it would close "indefinitely...pending the conclusion of this investigation." Rodeo Ranch, a western-themed bar below Varsity Tavern and owned by the same Texas group, Reign Group, also closed.

Days later, on July 2, the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control suspended Varsity Tavern's liquor license, which prevented it from selling alcohol, but did not require it to close, according to Trillo.

The department alleges in the "Consent Agreement and Order" that the man who fell over the balcony was "over-intoxicated at the time of his intentional act and that no employee of Varsity Tavern was present in the area and capable of stopping the patron before he acted to injure himself."

Varsity Tavern said in the agreement that nothing its employees did or did not do would have prevented the man from climbing over the railing.

The document also states that "[t]he department and Varsity Tavern agree that nothing in this Consent shall be construed as an admission by Varsity Tavern...or that Varsity Tavern concedes it is in any manner civilly or criminally responsible for any injuries sustained by the person as a result of the patron's intentional and inexplicable act of jumping from the second floor."

MORE VIOLATIONS

The liquor department also alleged that on June 10, two people believed to be underage were served alcohol and that Varsity Tavern's employees did not check their IDs.

In December 2018, Varsity Tavern entered into a consent agreement and agreed to pay a $15,500 fine to resolve four cases regarding "underage alcohol consumption and overconsumption," the agreement states.

Varsity Tavern made its final payment regarding the initial fine in May, according to the summary suspension, which documented the liquor department's reasonings for suspending the venue's liquor license in July.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

In addition to the $24,000 fine, which must be paid over 12 months, the agreement lists a series of changes that Varsity Tavern is required to make.

Among those, the bar must name new managers and submit those names to the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control and have those managers undergo training. All employees who handle or may handle alcohol will also be required to undergo liquor law training and take a quarterly "refresher" course for the next 24 months.

Varsity Tavern must staff at least one employee on or near the second- and third-floor patios "for the purpose of taking reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of patrons generally, including but not limited to steps to prevent any person or objects from falling or being thrown to the street below," the agreement states.

The order also requires hand stamps to be used to help identify customers who are old enough to consume alcohol.

The Arizona Liquor Department may also conduct "covert underage buyer" inspections over the next year, the agreement states.

If any part of the agreement is violated, Varsity Tavern's liquor license could be revoked and they could face additional penalties.