Published in the January 9, 2018 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The Board of Selectmen last night elected to take no action against the Dockside Restaurant in response to an incident last November involving a highly intoxicated couple who told police that they had been drinking at the Greenwood bar. The outcome left Police Chief Rick Smith with continuing concerns about the safety of the public and his officers.

“Our goal is to ensure safety and to forward issues to the (liquor) licensing authority,” Smith said today.

At a hearing before the board last night, Chief Smith summarized the events of Saturday evening, Nov. 4, 2017. Board members also had the detailed reports of the responding police officers.

Smith said that Sgt. Jon Burnham was engaged in an unrelated traffic stop on Main Street in the area of J.J. Round Playground when he observed a man and a woman walking north on Main Street. Moments later he heard a female scream and saw that the woman was now lying on the ground. The man walked out into the street and then back to the woman.

Officer Burnham, according to his report, radioed for backup and began approaching the pair. The man was extremely agitated and both he and the woman appeared to be extremely intoxicated, according to reports later filed by Sgt. Burnham and Officer Russell Carman, who had arrived on scene. Officers noted a strong odor of alcohol from both the man and the woman.

The man told Sgt. Burnham that the he and the woman had been drinking at the Dockside, according to Burnham’s written report.

The woman was uncooperative and denied needing any help, Carman noted in his report, even though she “was very confused and she was unaware of where she was. Her words were slurred and she was unable to stand.”

As Officer Carman was attempting to assist the woman, the man repeatedly tried to interfere, Smith told the selectmen at last night’s hearing. He began flailing his arms and yelling at officers according to their reports. He became assaultive and resisted when they tried to place him in handcuffs for his own protection.

The man continued to try to interfere with paramedics who had arrived and were tending to the woman. The man ultimately had to be taken to ground and hit with a taser twice before officers could handcuff him, Smith said. He was later taken to Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and the woman was taken to Winchester Hospital.

No charges were filed against either the man or the woman.

The selectmen next heard from Dockside owner Jack Urbaczewski and his attorney, Steven Grant of Saugus.

Grant assured the selectmen that Dockside “takes these matters very seriously and has extensive policies and procedures in place to prevent these things from happening.”

Grant provided board members with copies of relevant handbooks, manuals, policies and procedures covering alcohol protocol that employees are required to read and sign. He said that as soon as Urbaczewski was notified of the incident, he took steps to ascertain what happened.

He said that bartenders fill out logs and reports at the end of each shift noting any incidents that may have occurred. He said that none of the logs or reports made any reference to the pair in question or to any intoxicated individuals that night. Grant insisted that Dockside employees take pride in the restaurant and have an incentive to comply with the rules, especially with regard to serving alcohol.

Urbaczewski said he called a meeting of the staff after learning of the incident and was told that the male half of the couple was a regular customer but had never been a problem.

Grant told the selectmen that he also contacted the man. Grant said the man told him that he had had “a few beers” at the Dockside that night, but after he and the woman left, he purchased a “sleeve of 10” Fireball whiskey nips at a nearby liquor store, which he and the woman proceeded to consume after leaving the Dockside. Grant produced a copy of a letter the man had emailed to him yesterday asserting the same.

Grant closed by saying that in its 14 years in Wakefield, there had been no previous incidents that had brought the Dockside before the board.

Selectman Brian Falvey acknowledged that Dockside had no negative history, was a good corporate citizen and appeared to run a tight ship. However, he also said that when police are concerned enough to bring an issue to the board, they deserve the board’s full attention and support.

Falvey was skeptical of the late emailed letter from the man involved in the incident and questioned what motives or incentives he might have for now offering a story to protect his favorite watering hole.

Selectman Ann Santos noted that when the Board of Health was drafting new alcohol policies several years ago, Urbaczewski was one of the few owners of licensed establishments who welcomed the stricter rules.

Also at the hearing last night were the two bartenders who were working at the Dockside on the evening of Nov. 4. In response to questions from the board, they said that they remembered the man coming in briefly that night but did not observe obvious signs of drunkenness like stumbling.

Chief Smith was not impressed with the statement that Grant had submitted from the man who police encountered that night. Smith noted that he was just hearing about the letter, which he called “just a piece of paper,” with no one present to testify or answer questions.

“My role is public safety,” Smith said. “He admitted drinking at Dockside. He never said anything about buying shots.” Smith noted that if one of the individuals had stumbled into the street and been hit by a car, a civil suit would have been a real possibility.

Smith acknowledged that the restaurant business was a tough business but people make bad choices and then the police get involved. He said that he wanted “to make sure everyone goes home safe,” including the public and his officers.

In outlining the board’s options, Town Counsel Thomas Mullen said that for a first offense, the board would have to find that an incident did occur. It could then issue a warning or suspend the liquor license for up to two consecutive days.

Santos said that she felt that the proceedings before the board constituted enough of a warning and an official one was not warranted.

Falvey said that he remained skeptical of the late arriving statement from the male party involved, and absent that, he would have favored a warning. But, though dubious, he said that the statement had cast enough doubt that he would not favor any action against the Dockside.

After more discussion it became clear that the selectmen also had the option to close the hearing without making any findings regarding the incident or issuing any discipline.

That board voted to take that route and closed the hearing without taking any action.