GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Greg Gilmore, the owner of The B.O.B., defended his business during a hearing Friday, saying the bar has worked hard – and has spent a lot of money – to improve safety.
“We enclosed the stairwell so that nobody could ever make another decision to ride the rail and it’s totally enclosed. We spent $60,000 on that,” Gilmore said.
He went on to cite more changes.
“We stopped late-night party buses, quite often party buses would bring problems, people who have been out and about for too long,” Gilmore said. “We give last call at an earlier hour; we don’t let anybody in the building after one.”
Friday was the second day of testimony in the case against The B.O.B., which involves the death of one its patrons, Kevin O’Brien, and whether or not he was over served.
Previously, conflicting testimony was heard about whether O’Brien was visibly drunk before he fell several stories in a staircase and died.
O’Brien’s blood-alcohol level was later found to be 0.25, but that information can’t be used in the case.
The B.O.B.’s attorney argued that O’Brien was someone who could drink a lot and just not show it, and as a result, The B.O.B. should not be held responsible.
But the state said a suspension is needed to send a message.
“It’s not the first incident, it’s not the second, it’s the third. The third incident. That’s significant,” said Michigan Assistant Attorney General Jason Geissler.
The state cited a Target 8 investigation into low fines for liquor violations before it surprised everyone when it asked for a 10-day liquor license suspension for the establishment.
The B.O.B.’s attorney said the suspension would cost the bar a lot of money in lost business well into the six-figure range.
The maximum fine for overserving is $1,000, and combined with other charges, The B.O.B. could face up to $1,600 in fines.
What is happening with The B.O.B. situation has other bars in downtown Grand Rapids paying attention.
Ellen Lenhart is the general manager of nearby J. Gardella’s Tavern and said a 10-day liquor license suspension would be detrimental.
“I think that most people that are coming to a downtown spot are looking for the experience — drinking and eating combined,” she said. “I think it would be very difficult to stay open.”
Lenhart said the suspension would cost the bar more than just money.
“If that happened here — or any other bar — it would take a long time to recover, to get your image back,” she said.
Lenhart said most of the bars in the area have a 60-40 sales split, where 60 percent of sales come from alcohol and 40 percent comes from food.
Generally, suspensions from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission run on concurrent days to be selected by the commission.
Lenhart said her bar has already made changes following what happened at The B.O.B.
“We have definitely taken different precautions as well as taken things much more seriously,” Lenhart said. “And I think the patrons downtown have noticed too. There is a zero-tolerance policy for messing around in any way shape or form.”
Michigan’s Liquor Control Commission has up to 45 days to make a ruling and determine a fine for The B.O.B.