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Archive 2001 STS&G News Goodove in the News Virginian-Pilot

MADD SEEKS STATE LAW TO HOLD ESTABLISHMENTS LIABLE IF THEY SERVE ALCOHOL TO DRUNKEN PATRONS

MADD SEEKS STATE LAW TO HOLD ESTABLISHMENTS LIABLE IF THEY SERVE ALCOHOL TO DRUNKEN PATRONS

Author: CINDY CLAYTON THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT

Would laws holding bar owners and employees liable for drunken-driving injuries have saved a pregnant woman and three other people killed last week on Interstate 264?

The answer will never be known, but the Southside Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving announced Tuesday that it will renew efforts to persuade state lawmakers to pass such legislation.

Laws that allow compensation for victims would help prevent drunken driving, the group argues.

“The bars and restaurants here have no incentive to stop someone from drinking because there is no civil liability,” said chapter President Michael Goodove. “ `We’re not the cause of this,’ is what they are going to say. But they’re the cause because they are enabling that person to drink and drive.”

In the early 1990s, the group pushed for third-party civil liability, called dram shop legislation, that would hold restaurant and bar owners and employees responsible if they knowingly serve alcohol to intoxicated people or minors. The restaurant and beverage industry’s powerful lobby blocked its efforts, said Goodove, who has been with MADD for a decade.

Several restaurant owners and managers said Tuesday that legislation holding third parties liable would not help curb the problem. And the burden of assigning liability in those cases would be impossible.

“If someone comes to my restaurant and has one drink and leaves, then goes to split a six-pack at someone’s house . . . how am I responsible for that, and how can I prove that you drank somewhere else?” said Christopher Savvides, president of the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association and owner of the Black Angus Restaurant in Virginia Beach.

The District of Columbia and 43 states have legislation or court rulings that impose liability on owners and employees, according to MADD’s national office.

“Of course, the initial responsibility is with the drinker,” Goodove said. “That person makes a conscious decision to get drunk and get into a motor vehicle. Secondary responsibility lies with the bar or restaurant.”

Witnesses have told police that Enrique Lopez, 21, was drinking at Peabody’s Nightclub in Virginia Beach before Friday’s fatal crash. Lopez drove a car the wrong way on I-264. He plowed head-on into an oncoming car, killing himself and three women, including a woman who was headed to a hospital to have her first child.

Police are awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine Lopez’s blood-alcohol content.

The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is investigating whether Peabody’s violated liquor laws. The agency could take administrative action against the club by suspending or revoking the club’s license or levying a fine.

Savvides said dram shop legislation would allow victims or their families to sue people who had no part in serving alcohol to a customer, such as building owners or other employees.

“Anywhere there’s third-party liability, it opens the door for lawsuits – and where do you draw the line?”

Such a law could put some restaurants and bars out of business, he said.

“Insurance rates would double, and liability would double overnight,” Savvides said. “Even if you were absolved, just to defend yourself, the costs would be staggering.”

Savvides and others said that responsible restaurant and bar owners already do everything they can to make sure customers don’t get into a car while intoxicated.

At Waterside’s popular Bar Norfolk, employees go through several training classes each year to learn how to spot intoxicated people and what to do about it, said managing partner Kevin Marcuse. The bar offers free non-alcoholic beverages to designated drivers and participates in a program offering free taxi rides to patrons who don’t want to drive home.

He and Savvides said that most local restaurant and bar owners support the efforts and progress made by MADD. And they agree that adults must act responsibly if they decide to drink.

“The business has to take the responsibility of being a caretaker of their patrons,” Mar-cuse said. “But that responsibility has to be shared with the customer who knows it’s wrong to drink and drive, and who should know their limits.”

Reach Cindy Clayton at cclayton(AT)pilotonline.com or 446-2540.

Caption:
COURTESY OF WVEC
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is
investigating whether Peabody’s, above, violated its licensing
agreement by serving alcohol to an intoxicated customer. A man who
left the nightclub later caused a head-on collision on Interstate
264.

GRAPHIC
1999 ALCOHOL-RELATED TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS
For a complete copy, see microfilm for this date.

Copyright (c) 2001 The Virginian-Pilot
Record Number: 0105160558

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Archive 2001 STS&G News Goodove in the News Virginian-Pilot

MONTGOMERY WARD FALLOUT JEWELER, CUSTOMERS SPAR OVER UNPAID BILLS

Virginian-Pilot, The (Norfolk, VA)

February 9, 2001

When giants fall, little people get squished.

The casualties are mounting around here – courtesy of the collapse of retail mammoth Montgomery Ward.

Trapped under the carcass: customers who paid for merchandise they can’t get and subcontractors who can’t get paid for the work they’ve done.

At this point, they’re starting to club each other.

In the main arena: Stephen Mahanes, 48, master jeweler, Wards subcontractor and owner of Bench Jeweler, located in the Cypress Point Shopping Center on Diamond Springs Road in Virginia Beach.

His opponents: dozens of angry Wards customers who accuse Mahanes of holding their jewelry hostage to pressure Wards to pay his labor bill.

The first lawsuit was filed Wednesday.

The first picket sign was hoisted Thursday.

The first threats were hurled weeks ago – shortly after Wards declared bankruptcy on Dec. 28 and left Mahanes holding 68 pieces of fine jewelry he’d worked on for the chain.

It was a gig he’d been handling for 12 years. People bought jewelry at Wards, then Wards would pay him to resize, clean or repair it. Mahanes said his paychecks didn’t always arrive promptly but that Wards was reliable. Sooner or later, the checks showed up.

None came in December. Mahanes kept working – finishing up the batch of now-disputed jewelry one day before Wards hit the rocks. Since then, he’s refused to release any of the pieces. They remain tucked inside a sealed bag and locked in his store safe.

“A lot of mad people have come in here,” Mahanes said. “They’ve cussed at me. Threatened to beat me up. Threatened to kill me. One tried to have me arrested for grand larceny. But I’m not changing my mind. I’m a victim here, too. I’m doing what I have to do to get paid, but no one seems to understand that.”

Samuel Hood doesn’t. The 52-year-old Norfolk security guard bought a $190 birthstone ring for his mother-in-law at the Janaf Wards, and he wants it back. He’s willing to pay 10 times the cost of the ring to make that happen.

“I told him it was crazy to hire a lawyer for something like this,” said Michael Goodove, Hood’s attorney, “but he just flipped open his checkbook and said it was the principle of the thing.”

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 7 in Norfolk General District Court, asks for the return of the ring, plus $2,000 in damages and legal fees. A hearing is scheduled for March 13. Both sides think they’ll win.

And then there’s Portsmouth’s Charlie Frye, 56. Frye planned to marry his sweetheart on board a cruise ship on Jan. 6. But Mahane wouldn’t hand over the $1,500 sparkler Frye had purchased to place on her finger.

Frye found himself with an upset fiancee and a postponed wedding.

“It’s enough to make a man mad, you know?” he said.

So Frye made himself a picket sign and headed to Bench Jewelers after work Thursday.

“I’ll keep this up as long as I have to,” he said. “My girlfriend says she’s not getting married without that ring.”

Wards says it has promised Mahanes enough money to cover the cost of his work on the captive jewelry if he’ll agree to return it to their customers.

Bankruptcy rules prevent the retailer from forking over the rest of what it owes Mahanes – $6,000, by his account.

Mahanes doesn’t trust the company: “I’d have to see the money first.”

Wards doesn’t understand why.

“Ninety-nine percent of our jewelers have been fine with this arrangement,” said Chuck Knittle, the company’s vice president of corporate communications.

Mahanes said he “feels bad” for the customers, but won’t give back their jewelry even if they pay for the work themselves – a compromise that’s been achieved at other jewelers.

“That’s just too risky,” he said. “I have no way of knowing if they’ve paid Wards in full. I could find myself in trouble with Wards.”

Mahanes’ lawyer is analyzing his position. In the meantime, Mahanes has been compiling a list of Wards customers who have been “decent” to him.

“When the stores close for good, I’ll call those customers and tell them to come get their jewelry. I won’t even charge them for my work.

“But the people who treated me like dirt, the ones who talked to me like I was some kind of animal, I’ll be sending their jewelry back to corporate headquarters.”

Reach Joanne Kimberlin at 446-2338 or at jkimberl(AT)pilotonline.com.

Caption:
Color Photo
Charlie Frye of Portsmouth…

Copyright (c) 2001 The Virginian-Pilot
Record Number: 0102091164