Apr 202017

Verret’s Lounge at 1738 Washington Avenue, photographed in April 2016 (via Google)

The city’s alcohol board freed Verret’s Lounge on Washington Avenue this week from a requirement that it keep a security guard on site following a fatal shooting inside the bar last year, clearing the way for the business to be sold to new owners who add more of a wine focus to the menu.

Verret’s owner Powell Miller returned to the city’s Alcohol Beverage Control board on Tuesday, April 18, for his third time in six months, asking again to be released from the agreement the bar signed with the city last year to keep its doors open following the fatal Jan. 31 shooting of 42-year-old Gregory Young inside the bar. In February, Miller told the alcohol board that he wanted to sell the bar to Joanne Close, but that the security-guard requirement was an excessive expense that the new owners did not want to be responsible for.

Young’s shooting was the result of an interpersonal dispute between him and someone else, not any misbehavior that began inside the bar, Miller said. In the year since then, there have been no incidents of violence, threats, danger or harm to anyone there, and Miller said he even had a letter from the owner of his security company saying his guards had barely had to intervene more than a few times, simply to ask drunks to leave.

“My argument is that the security guard is not only not necessary, but prohibitively costly and preventing a sale of the business going forward,” Miller said.

At the February meeting, the alcohol board actually directed Miller to bring his request to the city to rework the consent judgment, said assistant city attorney Dan MacNamara, but such a collaboration never took place. Miller protested, saying he had emailed the city attorney’s office offering to discuss the request, but MacNamara said that “last-minute” exchange only happened last week after silence during the period of time when they could have set up a substantive dialogue.

“We were more than willing to meet with the permittee, the prospective permittee and some folks from the neighborhood who had expressed some concerns with the way this property is managed,” MacNamara said. “But (the bar owners) have not expressed any desire to address the concerns of the city.”

The alcohol board members, however, were ready to be done with the issue.

“I don’t see the need to keep delaying this,” said board member Robert Jenkins. “I would ask that we consider vacating that part of the agreement where he had to get the security guard, so he can go ahead and sell his property and go forward.”

Board member William Schultz agreed, citing the letter from the security company acknowledging that the guards were unnecessary at Verret’s.

“That doesn’t happen very often,” Schultz said of the letter. “We have not had any recent reports about any problems over there.”

All the other requirements in the original agreement have been “permanently implemented,” said board chair Nyka Scott, so the only term of the agreement that Powell was requesting only to vacate was the security-guard requirement. The alcohol board voted unanimously to drop the security guard requirement.

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