Trinity vs. ABC: Bar allegedly serves drunk people, too dark

Trinity Irish Pub, a popular bar on the Corner, fights charges by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control. Staff photo Trinity Irish Pub, a popular bar on the Corner, fights charges by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control. Staff photo

Trinity Irish Pub on the Corner, a favorite destination for UVA students, has previously made headlines for being a weekend hot spot for those of legal drinking age and their underage friends. But in a September 28 court hearing with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, underage possession of alcohol or fake ID usage weren’t discussed.

The violations in question come from a citation written by ABC agent Jared Miller in the late hours of November 22, 2014, when he and agent John Cielakie observed a Trinity bartender serving alcohol to someone whom they say was already obviously drunk, and also for not adequately illuminating the premises.

Agents Miller and Cielakie are also named in the case against former UVA student Martese Johnson, who was turned away from Trinity on St. Patrick’s Day two years ago and tackled to the ground by ABC enforcers. Photos and videos of his bloody arrest went viral, and he is currently involved in a federal lawsuit with his alleged assailants.

In court, Midlothian attorney Paul Buckwalter, who represented Trinity, said the pub’s bartender may not have known how intoxicated one patron was when he served him a beer. He says the agents described the man as having “glazed eyes” and an “unsteady gait,” when he was escorted from the top floor of the bar and off the premises by a bouncer. Though agents reported later seeing the same man ordering a drink from the bottom floor of the bar, Buckwalter argued that “the new server [downstairs] can’t be expected to know what he did upstairs.”

As for the improper illumination, the ABC’s hearing officer who heard the violation case said in her summary that Trinity was so dark inside that agents needed flashlights to see the ground, though Buckwalter argues the transcript does not reflect that. Instead, he says the agents recounted using the lights to identify themselves as officers to patrons. And at no point, he says, did they ask Trinity management to turn on the lights.

“I don’t know what to tell the client to do so it doesn’t happen again,” Buckwalter told Judge Richard Moore, who said he needed more time to review the appeal.

The ABC intends to charge $2,500 in fines, or suspend Trinity’s mixed beverage and wine and beer licenses for 25 days.

In January 2011, the bar was cited for misrepresenting a brand of beer and was fined $1,000 with a 10-day license suspension. Two years later, Trinity was nailed for advertising its happy hour, but the charge was dismissed, according to ABC records. While these are administrative charges, ABC spokesperson Kathleen Shaw says the bar’s license history shows approximately 30 criminal charges, which may have been made against patrons.

Area business ABC violations since July 2015

Underage buyer: 6

Failure to timely submit mixed beverage annual review: 2

Failure to comply with the operation of its government store: 1

Qualifications: 1

Ratio: 1

Licensee cannot demonstrate financial responsibility sufficient to meet requirements: 1

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