Tom English learns Thursday whether the four months he's had to go without a license for his eponymous Cottage on Emerson Street is punishment enough for the way two licensing detectives found him, a contractor and a third person inside with beers on March 21, after the city had already told local bars and restaurants to shut.
The Boston Licensing Board, which ordered his license seized because the incident, votes Thursday whether his inability to open even for takeout since then is punishment enough or whether he deserves an additional sanction. English says that if he gets the license back, he could re-open for takeout - he has a full kitchen - in two weeks.
According to BPD Sgt. Det. William Gallagher, he and Det. Eddie Hernandez visited the bar around 4:15 p.m. on March 21 on reports it was still open - two days after detectives from District C-6 had visited the bar and told English to shut down under a city edict because of the burgeoning Covid-19 crisis.
At a hearing conducted over Zoom today, Gallagher said the door was locked, but that he and his partner could hear people inside. After several minutes of banging on the door, he said, English unlocked it and let them in. Gallagher said that in addition to English, two other people were at the bar, along with beers and a bottle of Jameson Whiskey.
At the board's direction, he ordered Walsh to hand over his license for violating a board directive to shut.
English's attorney, Curt Bletzer, acknowledged his client, his daughter and a contractor were in the bar, but pleaded for mercy: He said English had, in fact, closed the bar to customers but that he and the contractor were inside after repairing an outside grate that had fallen down - English was hoping to get the place in good shape for a potential sale.
Bletzer apologized to the officers for English not responding immediately to their knocking, but said that was because English had become inured to people knocking on the door in those early days of the pandemic to ask when he thought he might re-open.
Bletzer continued that there was considerable confusion in those days - South Boston bars agreed to close voluntarily on March 15, originally in advance of St. Patrick's Day. That was the same day Gov. Baker ordered restaurants to shut their dining rooms, originally just until April 7. Then the city ordered bars in general shut.
Gov. Baker did not issue his emergency public-health declaration that, among other things, definitively ordered bars shut, until March 23, Bletzer said.
English did not realize that the city order to close extended even to owners and contractors enjoying a beer after a hard day of work, in this case on the grate.
"He wasn't running a business in there, he was closed, the doors were locked," Bletzer said.
But Licensing Board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce said ignorance of the law, or, in this case, board edicts, is no excuse - that if English had questions whether the board meant to bar everybody from drinking inside, even owners, he should have contacted the board. She said the board has tried hard to be accommodating to license holders during the pandemic, but said that every single time the licensing detectives have to enter an establishment on reports of a possible license violation, "they put own lives at risk," she said.
"And that's something that the board takes seriously," she said.