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Attempt at good deed ends in night of terror for Charlestown bartender

Update: Licensing board rules the bar was not at fault, finds "no violation."

A bartender at the Tavern at the End of the World, 108 Cambridge St., in Charlestown, today recounted an early morning armed robbery in which a gunman repeatedly threatened to just shoot him as they rummaged the bar for money.

The bartender told his story of what happened early on Jan. 12 to the Boston Licensing Board - which held a hearing because after the bartender reported the robbery, police cited the bar for having two customers on the premises at 2:45 a.m. - 15 minutes later than allowed.

The bartender said the two men who were there past closing were not served drinks past the official closing time of 2 a.m. - bars then have a half-hour grace period to let customers finish up their orders. And they were there because he was trying to do a good deed on a bitterly cold night: The two were plumbers who had done work for the bar and he offered them a ride home if they could wait until after he had finished closing up the place for the night.

Around 2:45 a.m., after cleaning up and putting chairs up on tables, he told the board, he went out back to throw out the trash.

"A man popped up, masked, wearing a hat," he said. The man flashed a badge that he claimed showed he was with the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which also regulates liquor licenses, and said he was going to nail the bar for those two guys inside. Major violation, the "inspector" said, in fact, he was going to write the bar up right now. They went inside, the bartender explained to the plumbers he couldn't give them a ride home and they left.

"I was pretty upset with myself," because of the seriousness of such a violation, he recalled. "I turn around, the man pulls out a gun." He said he told the guy: "Hey man, if you're going to write me a ticket, you don't have to have a gun out."

The guy then admitted he wasn't with the state; he was there to rob the place. And for 20 minutes, he did just that, the bartender said. With the gun pointed at him, he made the bartender empty the till. "He had the gun at the back of my head, at one point, I felt it at the back of my neck."

But that wasn't enough; he demanded the bartender take him to the bar safe and open it up for him. Only problem: The bar didn't have a safe. "I'm going to shoot you if you don't tell me where the safe is," the robber said. The bartender got an inspiration: He led the man downstairs, where he knew there was, if not a safe, a small metal box with about $100 in singles inside.

As he was retrieving it, he said, the robber began ranting: "He's holding me at gunpoint, telling me he's with the mob, that the Irish owed the Italians in Providence a lot of money, and all this 'Goodfellas' stuff."

The two then went back upstairs, the bartender with a gun to his back as they climbed the stairs. Then, he said they went out back, through the bar patio and to the corner, where the man left the steel box and then, still pointing a gun, led the bartender back into the bar and ordered him to smash the bar phone and demanded the bartender's cell phone.

"I should just waste you right now," he said the robber told him. "To which I replied, I just want to go home to my dog."

Then, finally, the robber left. The bartender said the first thing he did was get down on the floor and "serpentine" his way to the back door and locked it - he said he was worried that if he walked there, the guy might be outside and finally make good on his threat to shoot him.

With no way to contact police, he said, he got in his car and drove to his home in a nearby town - taking an odd route just in case the guy was following him - and banged on his neighbor's door. She let him in to use her phone to call his bosses and police - who told him he would have to come into the station to file a report.

The bartender said he took about ten days off and spoke to a therapist about PTSD.

Tavern at the End of the World co-owner Tony O'Brien tallied up the losses: About $4,000 in cash, another $1,000 to replace the bartender's phone and now the cost of hiring a lawyer to deal with the licensing citation.

O'Brien said the bar has new policies: Once all the customers are out, by 2:30 a.m., workers are not allowed to open the door for anyone except police or inspectors - and they have to be in a pair. Trash has to be taken out before the last customer might leave, he said.

He acknowledged that the bartender should not have allowed the two plumbers to be on premises at 2:45 a.m, but asked for leniency from the board given his costs, the effect on the bartender and the fact he let police have "incriminating" video from that night in the hopes it could lead to the capture of the robber.

O'Brien said the man was captured, although not initially for the robbery: Police tracked him, first to New Hampshire, then to North Carolina, where he was captured after crashing his car, killing another driver.

The licensing board decides Thursday whether the citation merits punishment.

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Comments

"workers are not allowed to open the door for anyone except police or inspectors"

Well that doesn't seem like it will work.

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Voting closed 1429

Maybe if the ABCC didn't go around hiding in the shadows, the crooks wouldn't emulate them.

Although really, how much of a difference is there?

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Voting closed 1301

Is for interesting stories like this to see the light of day. Wow! I hope they gave that bartender a nice raise.

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Voting closed 762

The bar must have some sort of alarm that could have been set off or at least he could've walked a block to the Holiday Inn to summon help vs driving home?

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Voting closed 446

I don't know about an alarm, but I imagine the guy was in shock at the time.

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Voting closed 1722

Dude’s doing the worm on the barroom floor and taking evasive maneuvers to get home and you want him to walk a desolate block in the dead of night after getting robbed at gunpoint!?

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Voting closed 941

I've done the same for customers. The robber sounds like a real psycho. Nothing wrong with the board having a hearing to investigate an armed robbery, but why did the police feel the need to cite the bar for having customers on premise a mere 15 minutes more than allowed, given the circumstances?

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Voting closed 534

For heaven's sake, this poor bartender wasn't letting customers stay - he was offering workers a ride home on a bitterly cold night after the T had stopped.

What an ordeal!

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Voting closed 805

If they are this easy to impersonate because their activity is so very nontransparent, there is a serious problem here.

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Voting closed 1511

The detectives of the Boston Police licensing unit (all three of them) don't just pop up at the back door of bars like that - they go in (or knock on) the front door. In fact, one licensing regulation requires places with Boston licenses to keep a certain percentage of their windows uncovered at all times so cops can look in from the street.

ABCC? That's a completely different agency.

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Voting closed 800

Is it someone currently being served? Someone who's ever been served there?

As people have mentioned, the T stops ridiculously early. People carpool or share a cab back to their neighborhood. Can an owner/manager not let neighbors who are done with their shift wait inside the bar? And are there exceptions for family members? Can you not have a spouse/grown child/etc. who came with you for a night in the city wait inside your establishment where it's safe until you're done locking up? We'd rather have them out on the sidewalk where the drunk folks roam?

Also, we all know bars attract, in addition to average folks socializing, people who are alcoholics or are having a hard time. If the owner recognizes that someone might be mixing drinks and drugs, might be suicidal, etc., do we want the owner to throw them out to the sidewalk immediately at 2? Or can they finish up their work for the night and have the person wait inside where it's safe and there are sober employees who can decide whether to call an ambulance? If they call an ambulance for someone at 1:30, do they then throw the person out to wait on the sidewalk at 1:59? Just...what are these puritanical laws that nothing good happens in a bar after 2 accomplishing?

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Voting closed 1516

Fact: licensing board are a bunch of jerk faces.

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Voting closed 877

I'm confused, how exactly did this end up in front of the board ? Did they go after them after the police report was made?

There needs to be clarification about what the inspectors are able to do so workers won't have this happen to them in the future. I know I've had instances with law enforcement where they were being sketchy and I didn't trust who they were and they got mad at me... I'm sorry , you act weird don't expect us to give you the benefit of the doubt. Now I know why I'm paranoid, this ordeal sounds horrible

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Voting closed 915

It ends up before the licensing board, which then decides what to do about it (no fines are associated with licensing citations).

In this case, the bar got a citation for "Patrons on premise after closing hour (2:45 am) in violation of M.G.L. ch. 138 s. 64."

So, no, nothing in there about armed robbery.

In order to defend itself, the bar, through its attorney, Andrew Upton, decided to explain why two customers were on the premises at 2:45 a.m. and then to seek leniency by admitting the infraction and explaining the rest of the story, which is where the armed robbery comes in (the poor bartender, plus the bar being out $5,000). Also, the bar's co-owner explained what steps he had taken to prevent a similar incident (the board tends to ask for that).

When the board meets Thursday to consider today's hearings, it will be asking itself whether the bar allowed those two guys to stay past the mandated all-out time and then, whether any punishment is warranted or whether the bar has taken sufficient steps to ensure it won't happen again. What it won't be doing is considering whether the bar could have done anything to prevent the armed robbery, since it wasn't cited for that.

The board could find "no violation." If it does find a violation was committed, it could simply put a notation in the bar's record (so if it happens again they can step up the punishment), issue a formal warning (same basic thing, but with a letter to the bar's manager of record) or, if they consider the infraction serious enough, suspend the bar's liquor license for one or more days.

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Voting closed 930

I guess my question is , who made the citation? Considering an armed robbery happened and somehow they were also there? That's what I'm getting wrapped up around. Was the citation not brought up in person then I take it?

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Voting closed 1589

They called the cops after the robbery, and the cops decided that, in the moment, it was more important to write them up for having people in the bar than to go after the robber

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Voting closed 828

That's how I was reading it too. I wanted to make a WTF comment but wanted to give them the benefit.

If that is what happens then we need a serious overhaul of this system. Believe me I'm all for aggressive enforcement with licensed establishments who flout the law but this is insane. It would also have a chilling effect. The message is doing call the damn police if you have an issue or at the very least lie lie lie.

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Voting closed 1368