Braza Bar & Grill met with the Licensing Board on Monday evening, Aug. 17, following the fatal shooting of 21-year old Ashlee Berryman outside of its establishment.
A large crowd of Everett residents, as well as some of the local councillors, spilled into the hallway of City Hall in hopes of learning more information about what transpired on the evening of the shooting along with the fate of Braza Bar & Grill’s liquor license.
The meeting was scheduled prior to the tragedy, and was intended to discuss a Facebook advertisement promoting Happy Hour, which is illegal in the state of Massachusetts. Happy Hour, which offers discounted alcohol, has been illegal in The Commonwealth since 1984. Representing the Braza Bar & Grill were the owner, Joe Pinto, manager Paulo Duarte, and attorney Anthony Rossi, who denied that Happy Hour ever occurred and claimed that the advertisement was not posted with their knowledge, but rather by an employee having access to their Facebook page.
The Board stressed that it is the owner’s sole responsibility for anything advertised on behalf of his business, and as a result, their hours were rolled back from 1 a.m. to 11 p.m. until certain conditions are met where they can request their original hours of operation back at a later meeting.
At the meeting, it was brought up that that there have been numerous incidents occurring at the Braza Bar & Grill leading up to the deadly shooting this month. Since February, the reported incidents that required police responses included four or five fights, two shootings – including the recent fatality – several verbal disturbances, people urinating outside, and a grease fire in the kitchen. In addition, nearby neighbors in Sacro Plaza Apartments complained of noise disturbances and fights spilling into the parking lot after doors close to the facility. One neighboring resident witnessed the deadly incident from her apartment saying, “I’ve called the police a number of times because of issues out there. We had to wait until a poor girl got killed? I had to see that lady lying on the ground. And I saw those cars, and I saw those guys talking back and forth. It scared the heck out of me.”
Overall, listeners seemed to be hopeful that there would be harsher consequences in the future in addition to the two-hour rollback issued at the Aug. 17 meeting.
An Everett citizen expressed “If this place is that bad, shut them down – period.”
Licensing board chairman Phillip Antonelli said, “We’re punishing him. We’re rolling his hours back. I’ll go on the record, financially that’s going to hurt him.”
Since the investigation is ongoing, the Licensing Board was not yet able to take action regarding the fatal incident, and therefore hoped that the rollback due to the Facebook advertisement would detract from further trouble occurring and soothe nearby residents. While the investigation was not discussed in detail, it was mentioned the Braza Grill cooperated with police in giving over surveillance footage to speed along the investigation
That said, the cameras were not working properly that evening, and the surveillance video could be worth very little to police.
While the investigation of the shooting is still developing, Braza Bar & Grill will be forced to close at an earlier hour, have police detail from 8 p.m. to midnight (one hour after closing), improve and add cameras, and provide better lighting in the parking lot before being considered to regain their normal hours.
The meeting was finalized with Antonelli stressing to the owner to “Demonstrate to the board and to the citizens of Everett that you earned the privilege to own a license in the city of Everett.”
The meeting concluded with Lt. Detective Richard Gamby stating that the police were getting closer to making an arrest for the shooting of Ashlee Berryman.