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Attorney: Aspen bar staff responded promptly to bar fight

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

An attorney representing the owners of the Whiskey Rush bar said Tuesday that his clients responded promptly and appropriately to a bar fight early Thursday that left four people injured.

Christopher D. Bryan, an attorney with Garfield and Hecht P.C., attended what was described as an “emergency hearing” of the Liquor Licensing Authority board with three representatives of the bar Tuesday morning. The administrative hearing was held so that the board could determine whether to set a date for another hearing on whether punishment — such as suspension or revocation of the bar’s liquor license — is warranted.

A preliminary affidavit by Aspen police officer Jeff Fain, released Friday, indicated that the bar failed to immediately notify police of the fight — a violation of municipal code. However, at the hearing, Fain noted that his final report is still in the works.

“The wait staff, the bartender and the management of Whiskey Rush acted as soon as possible once they realized there had been some disorderly conduct,” Bryan said Tuesday afternoon. “The police acted very quickly. At this juncture, it’s difficult for us to understand what the city’s beef with us is in light of the circumstances.

“They did everything they could as quickly as they could. It’s not like they let a fight go on and then tried to hide it,” Bryan added.

The liquor board voted to set the next hearing for April 7. Only board member Jeff Wertz, also an Aspen attorney, voted no.

“I found the material submitted by the officer (Fain) and the city lacking to make any indication approaching probable cause that the bar did not act immediately,” Wertz said. “I know the club called (police), I want to know when they called, and no one can tell me that. I want to know when the incident took place. If I have those two times, I can figure out if they didn’t call anything approaching immediately.”

He pointed out that Fain’s preliminary affidavit states a bar employee did call a non-emergency number of the police department. According to the affidavit, the call was for the purpose of getting an ambulance to the scene, at the request of a female patron.

“I asked questions over the weekend,” Wertz said. “I asked the city attorney and the city clerk to please have the police department prepared to answer certain questions from the board this morning, but no questions were answered. The motion (for the April hearing) was made on what was submitted Friday.”

Assistant City Attorney Debbie Quinn said the licensing authority was required to set a hearing on the matter. The liquor authority’s next regular board meeting is March 3. The Whiskey Rush owners’ schedule conflicted with that date, and the following regular board meeting April 7 was chosen instead.

“The purpose of the hearing will be for the licensing authority to determine whether any disciplinary action needs to be taken,” she said.

The issue could be resolved sooner, Quinn said, if the two sides work out an agreement and present it to the licensing authority March 3.

According to the affidavit, two officers responded to a medical call at the South Galena Street bar around 1 a.m. Thursday and made contact with four injured individuals. Among them were two males tending to wounds with blood-soaked rags and a female who was holding a bandage to her forearm.

The female explained to officers that she had been cut by glass thrown in a fight on the Whiskey Rush dance floor, Fain wrote.

Soon after, a fourth individual contacted officers, saying an unknown individual had heaved a beer bottle at her inside Whiskey Rush. She was observed as having a bump on her forehead and a watery eye.

No criminal charges have been filed in connection with the case so far, according to police. On Friday, police spokeswoman Blair Weyer said the department had identified two suspects on potential charges of disorderly conduct and second-degree assault. She did not reveal their names.

Weyer said three people were transported from the scene of the incident to the hospital, and one refused medical care. She said she could not comment on their medical conditions.

Meanwhile, the Aspen Police Department continues to seek witnesses to the fight. A message on its website, posted Friday, remains: “Multiple people were injured during an altercation at Whiskey Rush last night. If you were in/around this establishment from midnight-1 a.m. and witnessed anything that may assist officers, please call 970-920-5400 and ask to speak with a detective. Thank you.”

andre@aspentimes.com


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