PEPPERELL -- Selectmen took no action Monday during a liquor license hearing for the Pepperell VFW.
The board found that the VFW had not violated any town regulations in serving alcohol to a man who later backed into another car in the parking lot of the 7-11 on Tarbell Street.
Police Chief David Scott informed the board that on Dec. 3, the man was arrested for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of liquor after causing the minor car accident.
Earlier in the evening, the man said he drank four beers at the VFW. He had been there to attend a private function, and after the function ended continued to drink in the bar area without being signed in by a member.
Michael Murphy, who is charge of the VFW hall's day-to-day operations, said that while it is protocol to have all guests be signed in by a member if they remain after a private function ends, a new bartender working that day had not been told this.
He claimed responsibility for not making her aware of the rule.
Guests are not required to be signed in by a member if they are at the VFW for a private event.
Video surveillance provided by the VFW shows the man leaving the club some time after 6 p.m. The car accident occurred at 8:17 p.m.
The two-hour window where the man's whereabouts were unknown, combined with the fact that the VFW did not violate any regulations, led the selectmen to take no action.
"The question of overservice is just that - it's a question. With those two hours gray, we can't pinpoint them for that," Scott said.
Selectman Michael Green said that rather than penalizing the VFW, the town should rewrite its own regulations to make it clear that guests must be signed in if they leave a private function but remain at the bar.
"They, in my opinion, haven't done anything wrong. Our regulation needs to be clarified. It's way too gray," Green said.
Selectmen Chairman Stephen Themelis asked if the VFW could ask guests to sign out in addition to signing in, in order to help pinpoint the time that people leave the venue in cases like this one.
Town Administrator John Moak said that since there is no town regulation requiring that, the VFW can't be asked to require guests to sign out.
Scott also informed selectmen of another possible liquor license violation at the Tea Cafe on Tarbell Street. On Dec. 21, a man was placed into protective custody after police responded to a disturbance. He had been drinking at the Tea Cafe earlier in the evening.
Although Green said he did not believe a hearing was appropriate, as the man in question had left the Tea Cafe two hours before being arrested, the board voted to bring the restaurant's owners in for a hearing on Jan. 27.
The Tea Cafe's liquor license was temporarily suspended in October for overserving customers in three incidents.
All servers and bartenders have since become TIPS certified, following an order from the board that they do so. TIPS, or Training and Intervention Procedures for Servers of Alcohol, is an online training tool for responsible alcohol service.
The hearing was another step toward ensuring that the Tea Cafe continue policies of safe alcohol service, Themelis said.
"It's just due diligence and trying to keep our town as safe as possible," Themelis said.