The final appeal of Scioli's Pizza Bar, of a three-week license suspension, has failed.
Superior Court Judge Daniel Wrenn dismissed the business's complaint on Feb. 15, finding that the state's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission was justified in upholding the Milford Board of Selectmen's decision to suspend, for three weeks, the alcohol pouring license.
Milford Selectmen voted 2-0 in April to suspend the alcohol license, and to roll back serving hours for alcohol for six months. The decision followed a hearing in which Milford police, customers and employees testified about a March 24, 2012 incident in which two customers were reportedly punched by a Scioli's bouncer, Paul Casasanta. Once on the ground, the men were kicked at by individuals who were not identified.
One man was taken to Milford Regional Medical Center by ambulance, the other to the hospital by friends. The most seriously injured customer had reconstructive surgery on his eye socket.
Scioli's, through its attorney, has argued that the owner of the restaurant was not responsible for the actions of its employee, and that the restaurant is being treated unfairly, compared to other bars in town.
Before issuing its September 2012 decision, the ABCC reviewed records including the written summary of the Selectmen's meeting, and hearing, CDs of interviews conducted by police, and a call to the Milford 911 dispatch center.
Under state law, the Superior Court could reverse, or modify, an ABCC decision if the rights of a business were violated because the agency made an arbitrary or capricious decision, unwarranted by facts and not supported by substantial evidence, Wrenn wrote.
"The plaintiff's narrow argument in this regard is that the plaintiff's manager, Stephen Scioli, had no prior knowledge, understanding or information to predict that the plaintiff's employee and bouncer, Paul Casasanta, would react in a violent and aggressive fashion as he did on March 24, 2012," Wrenn wrote. "Thus, the plaintiff argues that the corporation did not permit the illegality and/or disturbance on its premises since the corporation's president, Mr. Scioli, had no foreknowledge of Mr. Casasanta's propensity in this regard."
"While the plaintiff through counsel presented a forceful and passionate argument in this regard, the plaintiff's argument is far too narrowly focused in regard to an interpretation of the relevant obligation. There was in fact substantial and indeed overwhelming evidence that the plaintiff corporation prior to March 24, 2012 failed to properly train its security staff so as to avoid the incident that occurred on March 24, 2012..."
The judge also found the business "through a number of its employees failed to properly respond to the incident of March 24, 2012, at an early stage when the corporation had an opportunity to put a stop to the incident and avoid the melee that ultimately resulted in a significant injury to one of the plaintiff's patrons."
Wrenn also rejected an argument that the business was treated more harshly than other businesses in Milford, finding the board's penalty was not arbitrary and "the penalty provided by the ABCC was a logical and reasoned penalty based on the substantial evidence presented to it at the administrative hearing."
Milford Selectmen next meet on Monday. The board would have to vote to impose the license suspension, for it to take effect.
Casasanta, 33, the former bouncer, resolved the criminal charges he faced in a Milford District Court hearing Friday. The two counts of assault and battery, and one count of aggravated assault and battery, resulting in serous injury, were reduced to two charges of assault and battery. If he complies with court-ordered anger management instruction, and probation, for the next three months, the charges will be continued without a finding.