ABC Moves Forward with Revoking Liquor Licenses for Arcata Bars

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Bar row. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • Bar row.
The California Bureau of Alcohol Beverage Control has adopted a judge’s recommendation to permanently revoke the liquor licenses for popular longtime Arcata bars Sidelines and Toby & Jack’s.

The decision, which comes just a couple of weeks after Administrative Law Judge Alberto Roldan issued a scathing ruling that substantiated a combined 30 allegations against the establishments and recommended their liquor licenses be pulled, becomes permanent 30 days after it's delivered to the license holders, in this case Costanzos Genco Olive Oil Co., Inc, owned by Salvatore “Sal” Costanzo and his son Michael. Within that 30-day period, the Costanzos can petition ABC’s Board of Appeals to reconsider, which their attorney has indicated they intend to do.

The revocation proceedings — which were the subject of a four-day hearing in late September — came after a months-long sting operation concluded in April, culminating with the arrests of three of the bars’ employees and a host of patrons. In total, ABC filed 30 allegations against the establishments, alleging widespread drug culture existed in both and that undercover agents were able to easily purchase narcotics — including cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamine — in both bars, often with “house knowledge,” meaning an employee or licensee was aware of, or even aiding in, the illegal activity.

During the hearing, the Costanzos asserted they were unaware of any narcotics activity at the bars but Roldan said he found their testimony “not to be credible.”

Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer testified at the hearing as a witness for ABC, detailing the high frequency of police calls for service generated at the two establishments, and numerous city officials have indicated they would like to see the footprint of the city’s bar row shrink.

ABC has indicated that if the licenses are revoked they will not be replaced, as Humboldt County already has more liquor licenses than its population warrants.

The Costanzos' attorney, Patrik Griego, indicated his clients plan to appeal ABC's decision but declined to comment further on the case.

Read previous coverage of the case here and here, and the certificates of decision from ABC here and here.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include Patrik Griego's comments.

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