Sunday, February 22, 2015

ABC Board Votes to Continue Summary Suspension of Halftime Sports Bar Liquor License


The following is based on an order from the District of Columbia's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (case: 15-251-00033, order: 2015-049, dated 2/18/2015):

In a devastating move for Halftime Sports Bar (1427 H Street) the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has voted 3 to 2 (one abstention) to continue to the summary suspension of the bar and grill's license until a show cause hearing can be held. Halftime Sports Bar is the H Street Corridor's only operating sports bar (there's at least one more sports bar in the works). It was shuttered by MPD on January 31st of this year following an incident the previous evening in which owner Karl Graham allegedly drew a pistol (an H&K semi-automatic .40 caliber) on a man named Fred Thompson after Thompson reportedly threatened Graham verbally ("...oughta' fuck you up") and made a lunging motion towards him. Thompson was not a patron of Halftime.

The dispute apparently stemmed from a construction contract for work on an apartment building. Thompson was unhappy about a problem with the work and wanted to nullify the contract. The pistol was drawn during Thompson's second visit of the day to Halftime. The first visit (which occurred at 5:30pm and consisted of a brief ten minute conversation) ended peacefully, but Thompson allegedly returned 15 minutes later and Graham described Thompson's demeanor at the time as "extremely agitated" and noted that Thompson appeared to be under the influence of narcotics. Thompson allegedly refused repeated requests to leave the tavern. It was at this point that Graham claims Thompson threatened him and lunged, and Graham responded by drawing his pistol. Thompson then reportedly left the establishment, slamming the door and spitting on the windows as he departed. Graham responded by locking the door and calling the police. When the officers arrived Graham showed them his Maryland concealed carry credentials and told them he had a gun on his person.

Later that night (about 11:30pm) Thompson returned to Halftime a third time. This time he was accompanied by an unidentified man. There were about 60 patrons inside the tavern at that hour. According to Graham, Thompson appeared to be concealing something in his hands, and still seemed to be under the influence of a narcotic. Thompson allegedly began laughing, shook Graham's hand, and then ran his arm down the length of the bar knocking patrons out of the way and sending glasses crashing to the floor. Thompson then reportedly "flipped several tables and pushed his way outside of the establishment." Graham's fiancée phoned the police. When the officers arrived Graham again displayed his Maryland concealed carry permit and informed them that he was carrying a gun. MPD officers arrested Thompson, and an hour and a half later they arrested Graham for assault and carrying an unregistered firearm. Graham claimed at the time that he was not aware that his actions were illegal. No formal charges had been filed against Graham at the time the order was issued (February 18th).

The Board found that Graham did actually draw his pistol, and that that firearm was not registered in the District of Columbia. Graham is certified as a private investigator in Maryland, and he holds a Maryland concealed carry permit. He stated that he has applied for a permit to carry a concealed handgun in the District, but it does not appear that MPD has issued him such a permit. The Board is obviously taking this matter extremely seriously, and it's clear that the future of Halftime Sports Bar is very uncertain. In the order, the Board stresses that these were the actions of the license holder/tavern owner, and that that in itself raises questions about his suitability to possess such a license ("The Board finds a continuing threat to the health and safety of the public based on Mr. Graham's carrying of an unregistered firearm on the premises, which call into question his ability to operate a safe establishment").

Even if Graham had been issued a concealed carry permit in the District, it still would have been illegal for him to carry a firearm into a tavern (Halftime has a CT license, not a CR license). There's some suggestion in the order that Graham may have accidentally carried his pistol into the District, but he apparently refused to answer some Board questions regarding his employment as a private investigator, so they do not give credit to this portion of his testimony ("Mr. Graham's refusal to answer questions on this topic denied the Board and the Government relevant evidence to his propensity to repeat the act of carrying an illegal firearm. Therefore, based on Mr. Graham's refusal to answer questions, the Board is entitled to discredit Mr. Graham's testimony on this topic").

For the moment the license remains merely suspended, but the language of the order makes it clear that the Board regards this as an extremely grave matter, even stating that if these allegations against Graham are “sustained in a show cause action or criminal proceeding, there is a strong chance that the violation in this case will lead to the revocation or non-renewal” of the license (it's already established that the simple act of carrying an unlicensed firearm is a revokable offense). The order reflects a plea for leniency based based on the outcome of some other cases and the establishment's good operating history, but the Board rejects this because the illegal actions were committed by the license holder/owner himself. They do appear to have taken the operating history into account in choosing to not simply revoke the license outright at this time.

Here's a quote that seems to sum up the Board's position nicely:

When the facts call into question a licensee's basic qualifications for licensure, the Board cannot permit a licensee to continue operating until the cloud creating that doubt is lifted. Therefore, in this case, the Board will not permit the licensee to be responsible for the safety of patrons until the show cause proceeding resolves the Board's doubts -- to do otherwise simply would put the lives and bodies of innocent patrons at risk.


Anonymous said...

shut it down forever. good riddance.

Anonymous said...

While it sounds that the there was some provication based on how events seem to have transpired but I don't believe he didn't know carrying a concealed weapon without a permit in DC was a crime. Really? It may not have been a crime in Maryland where his permit made it legal but a Maryland permit is not transferable to DC. I assume he applied DCRA not to a jurisdiction in Maryland for his permit to open a restaurant or serve alcohol (which I assume he can)? I assume he pay sales taxes to DC or to Maryland. DC and Maryland are two different places. He knew but he just did it anyway.

Anonymous said...

shut it down forever. the neighborhood deserves better.

Chris Breezy said...

this is why we can't have nice things...

Anonymous said...

To those saying "good riddance" or "the neighborhood deserves better" - had you even been to this bar? It was generally a calm establishment and the patrons very nice. It's unfortunate that the owner made such poor decisions in not informing himself of whether he could be carrying his firearm in the district, nevermind into his establishment, and I agree that such oversights justify revoking the license. But that doesn't make an otherwise calm and clean bar, where friendly patrons went to watch sports and have a couple of drinks, a crappy establishment. What about it was so bad??

inked said...

I have to agree with 3:07. I'd never heard of a single complaint at Halftime, or at the Elroy when he owned & was running that place. These taverns have not been magnets for disorder or violence. They've been pretty low-key spots. It just makes this whole incident all the more baffling.

h st ll said...

I think its clear a lot of these anon trolls who post here hate all black owned and majority black patron businesses. Disgusting behavior by you trolls.

Anonymous said...

This guy is full of shit. He knew perfectly well that he can't carry his gun in DC, he chose to ignore our laws. Don't be a rube and believe this complete bs.