‘Last Call’ for BJ’s Bar & Grill

Published 8:30 am Monday, November 1, 2010

AHOSKIE – A Main Street bar here has lost its license to serve alcohol following several instances of violent acts, including aggression against law enforcement officers.

Late last week, North Carolina ABC Commission Chairman Jon Williams signed the orders suspending the

alcohol permits held by BJ’s Bar & Grill. That decision came less than one week after a Hertford County Deputy was assaulted inside the club after he and other law enforcement officers had responded to reports of a fight involving more than 25 patrons of the establishment, located at 208 East Main Street.

According to sworn accounts provided by Ahoskie Police officers and Hertford County deputies who were at the scene of the Oct. 23 scuffle, a deputy was struck by a thrown chair and patrons of the business were throwing bottles out the front door at the officers who were attempting to make arrests at the scene.

In response to the sworn affidavits provided, the NC ABC Commission issued a “Last Call” summary suspension of the business’s permits to sell and serve alcohol. The suspension is in effect immediately.

“The sworn affidavits of law enforcement strongly suggest that the public safety is at risk if this business is allowed to continue to serve alcohol,” said Chairman Williams. “Based on these sworn statements, it is the decision of the ABC Commission to put public safety first and to suspend alcohol permits at this location immediately.”

In addition to the recent assault, sworn affidavits by law enforcement officers stated there have been many calls for service to the location made to local law enforcement, including times when the entire shift of the Ahoskie Police Department has been dispatched to respond to a complaint about violent activity at the business.

It was also alleged that a fight at BJ’s on May 15 of this year preceded a deadly shooting in a lot off Catherine Street near the nightclub. Ahoskie Police officers, faced with what they said was a large and unruly crowd inside the establishment, shut down the club at 12:50 a.m. due to safety concerns.

Moments later, gunshots were heard from near Catherine Street. One of those bullets struck and killed 19-year-old Ivan Coulton, a former Hertford County High School football standout who was on an athletic scholarship at NC A&T State University.

In his sworn affidavit, Coulton’s step-father, Gregory Harrell, said Coulton was inside BJ’s when a fight broke out between patrons. Coulton left the bar and, according to Harrell, “was an unfortunate bystander not engaged in the fighting” when he was killed.

Kendrick Kendale Jones, 26, of 647 Horton’s Church Road, Aulander, was later arrested in that deadly shooting. He was charged with first degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inciting a riot and possess, sell, buy, alter the serial number of a weapon, all felonies. He was also charged with go armed to the terror of people, a misdemeanor.

“I have been personally advised by citizens that they are afraid for their safety, the safety of their families and the safety of their property because of the general disruptive nature of BJ’s Bar and Grill and the disruptive nature of the people attracted to the bar when it is open for business,” Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh wrote in his sworn affidavit to the ABC Commission.

Fitzhugh added, “Based upon my personal experience at this property, reports from other police officers and deputies who have personally responded to calls there…I feel it is not safe for any law enforcement officer to respond to a call (there) without exposure to inordinate and undue danger.”

In his sworn affidavit, Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan wrote, “I have interviewed law enforcement officers who know the general reputation of the persons associated with gangs, drugs and violence who are known to patronize BJ’s Bar and Grill.”

Vaughan added that the property’s owner, Teabre Parker, was at the bar when the assault on his deputy occurred Oct. 23. He said neither she nor any employee of the bar had contacted his office regarding information on the assault.

Other law enforcement officers offering sworn affidavits told of illegal gambling occurring at the bar, allegedly in front of the owner and employees who did nothing to stop it. On another occasion, a search of a bar patron’s vehicle revealed an assault rifle.

There are numerous police reports detailing illegal possession and use of alcoholic beverages at the bar; illegal use and sale of narcotic drugs at the bar; loud and profane language, discharging of firearms and drunk and disruptive behavior.

Chairman Williams noted in his “Last Call” order that, “Parker does not call the Ahoskie Police Department for assistance until a situation is out of control.” He further noted that Parker was arrested Sept. 25 on the premises for failing to disperse upon command.

“The allegations of violent activities at this location posed a clear threat to the public, to law enforcement officers and to Alcohol Law Enforcement agents who have a responsibility to inspect licensed premises. We are working with the state ABC Commission to curb violence and promote safety across North Carolina,” said ALE Director John Ledford.

In April, the State ABC Commission announced “Last Call” – a cooperative initiative with local law enforcement and ALE that streamlines the process for suspending alcohol permits of violent bars and clubs. This is the

seventh summary suspension issued in the last 12 months by the state ABC Commission.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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