GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The B.O.B. has decided to stop fighting a 10-day liquor license suspension imposed upon it by the state.
The downtown Grand Rapids venue will be closed from July 4 through July 13, it said in a Wednesday statement.
The Michigan Liquor Control Commission first ordered a three-day suspension for two liquor violations connected to the May 2013 falling death of 36-year-old Kevin O’Brien. The more serious of those violations was serving alcohol to an intoxicated customer.
After The B.O.B. appealed the ruling before a panel of three Liquor Control commissioners in early June, they increased the penalty to a 10-day suspension. The B.O.B. appealed again, but the LCC’s ruling was upheld by a Kent County judge late last month.
The B.O.B. said Wednesday it will not appeal the suspension again because it “created too much uncertainty for our guests and our staff.”
“We feel strongly that this is an injustice to our staff of 220, their families and all of our guests that have been affected by this MLCC decision,” the statement said.
The B.O.B. has said it was not responsible for O’Brien’s death. Attorneys argued that O’Brien had already had four drinks before he got to the venue on the night of his death, and that servers couldn’t have known that. O’Brien had four more drinks at The B.O.B. His blood-alcohol content (BAC) level was .25 at the time of his death.
“Our continued concern, and a concern all establishments that serve alcohol should have, is that if a person is not visibly intoxicated, you can still be held responsible for their actions, which are unknown to the establishment. That puts enormous risk on every licensee,” the Wednesday statement said.
O’Brien’s is one of three falling deaths at The B.O.B. in the last few years. Tylor Usher, 21, died there in 2009. And only a month before O’Brien’s death, Zachary Bunting, also 21, fell to his death in the same stairwell.
O’Brien’s mother Suzanne O’Brien, who has not previously spoken publicly about her son’s death, said she doesn’t think there should have been another falling death after Usher’s.
She said she was pleased to hear about the suspension, but that it doesn’t provide closure for her family.
“Somebody asked, ‘Do you think the 10 days was enough?’ Well, whatever the Liquor Commission and judge decided, we thought was fair, but it won’t bring back Kevin,” O’Brien said. “If it could bring back my son, I would be very happy and that’s all I would want, as I’m sure any of the mothers would that lost their sons there.”
Suzanne O’Brien said she doesn’t believe The B.O.B. management thinks they are in the wrong, but rather that they are accepting they weren’t going to win this fight.
She said the one silver lining of the situation is that it brought attention to the dangerous stairwell at The B.O.B. That stairwell has since been modified to prevent falls.
The suspension covers all the bars in The B.O.B., which operate under a single liquor license. In addition to the suspension, The B.O.B. has been ordered to pay a $900 fine.
The B.O.B., which says it serves half a million customers each year, previously said a 10-day suspension could cost it up to $200,000.
The full statement from The B.O.B.:
The staff of 220 employees at The B.O.B. thanks its customers for their patronage and we apologize for not being able to accommodate them from July 4 thru Sunday July 13th.
We have decided to accept the Michigan Liquor Control penalty; as fighting it created to much uncertainty for our guests and our staff. We feel strongly that this is an injustice to our staff of 220, their families and all of our guests that have been affected by this MLCC decision.
Our continued concern, and a concern all establishments that serve alcohol should have, is that if a person is not visibly intoxicated, you can still be held responsible for their actions, which are unknown to the establishment. That puts enormous risk on every licensee.
The B.O.B. has been a catalyst for the rebirth of downtown and we will continue to be an integral part of the downtown community. We have a lot of exciting things on the horizon and we look forward to moving on and focusing on the future.
24 Hour News 8’s Dani Carlson contributed to this report.