GROTON — The Select Board voted Monday to suspend the liquor license of Ixtapa Mexican Grill & Cantina and to require mandatory Training for Intervention Procedures, or TIPS, recertification.
Ixtapa’s liquor license will be suspended between Friday, July 2, and Sunday, July 5, unless an appeal is made to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, or ABCC, and the restaurant receives a favorable outcome. The decision follows an incident on April 17 in which three women under the legal drinking age were served at the restaurant. After leaving the restaurant, the 20-year-old driver from Ashby was arrested on drunken driving charges.
According to police records, the driver’s breathalyzer test showed a blood alcohol level of 0.15%, nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08%. A 20-year-old woman from Pepperell and a 19-year-old woman from Townsend were passengers in the vehicle and were placed in protective custody after showing signs of intoxication.
Records show that three 911 calls were made by the restaurant. The first was made by the manager who said the bartender was having difficulty with the patrons. The second was from the bartender who was concerned about the women driving. The third was from the manager again who said they had been allowed to leave, believing that one was not drunk. Information on their vehicle was provided to the police.
Nicholas Felici, an attorney representing Ixtapa, told the board that the restaurant served one pitcher of margaritas to the three women, who were having dinner. He said their server believes he checked one ID but misread the date.
Felici also said that after having dinner, the three women were served drinks by male patrons in the bar area. He confirmed the 911 call stating they had been allowed to leave after one convinced the restaurant manager they were OK to drive and that the restaurant provided vehicle information.
Police Chief Michael Luth said the correct protocol would have been for the server to card all members of the table when the pitcher was ordered and for a bartender to card them there, even if the drinks were purchased by another person.
Select Board member Becky Pine spoke about Ixtapa being a more affordable option and only a short distance from the town’s high schools. She and the other board members spoke about the need to take the matter seriously.
“I like Ixtapa and I think they have been a good addition in Groton. I certainly don’t want to drive them out of business, I know it’s been hard for businesses to stay alive during the pandemic, but we need to have a really important focus on keeping people alive. That means we don’t let people drink too much, we don’t let them drive when they’ve had too much to drink, and we certainly don’t let underage people drink,” Pine said.
Originally, the board considered a seven-day suspension of the license with mandatory TIPS recertification. Felici argued the penalty was too severe given the restaurant’s track record.
“For a first offender, especially given the eight years with a clean record by my client, I’ve only had the experience of a warning being issued for a very similar violation as this, or a one-day suspension in cases where that town board thought it was more egregious than normal,” Felici said.
The restaurant’s five-day window to file an appeal with the ABCC began May 25. An appeal will be heard within 30 days of the appeal being filed. Felici did not indicate if his client would appeal during the meeting.
During the meeting, the board also heard from a resident concerned about the Black Earth Composting site on Cow Pond Brook Road. Linda Bicknell expressed concerns over odors stemming from the site, noise from the company’s vehicles, and increased traffic in the neighborhood.
The board requested that the company adjust its operating hours to be more courteous of the neighborhood’s residents. They also requested Bicknell and neighbors continue to provide feedback to the company as well as the board so they can take more appropriate action moving forward.
Andrew Brosseau, compost operations manager, said there is a new structure being built that should help reduce odors. He also emphasized his desire to hear feedback from residents and provided the complaint number — 978-732-7105 — that residents can call or text. Brosseau also appeared amenable to changing his hours of operation.
Additionally, the Select Board voted to approve several reopening steps brought forward by Town Manager Mark Haddad.
- Town Hall will reopen and fully vaccinated people are not required to wear masks inside.Pursuant to the open meeting law, public meetings will be held in person again. The town is looking into a form of remote participation.
- The Groton Country Club pool and summer camps can operate without restrictions.
- The farmer’s market can operate without restrictions this summer.
- Four furloughed library employees will be allowed to return to work.
The Police Department also received approval to hire three additional reserve officers which Luth said will help the department continue its reserve officer program before the state’s new police reform law goes into effect in July.
To end the meeting, Haddad provided an update from a working group that he established to study the town’s bylaws. According to Haddad, the working group, and town counsel, are in agreement the town does indeed have a leash law.
The Select Board will next meet on Monday, June 7; state Rep. Sheila Harrington and state Sen. Edward Kennedy are scheduled to visit.