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City board suspends Joe De's liquor license.

Byline: Scott J. Croteau

WORCESTER - The License Commission yesterday suspended for five days the liquor license for a Cambridge Street bar that police said is a haven for gang members with continued drug dealing.

Police cited a gang unit investigation in which several people were charged with buying or selling drugs inside Joe De's Sports Bar, 198-204 Cambridge St., as a reason the License Commission needed to take some sort of action.

Gang unit Officer James P. Carmody said his unit learned of drug dealing inside the bar, which he said is frequented by gang members. The information prompted police to conduct their investigation.

Bar owner Mark Goodwin was brought before the License Commission for a violation of a commission rule that states a manager is responsible for any illegalities on the premises whether the manager is present or not.

Mr. Goodwin's lawyer, Jonathan Finkelstein, did not contest the issue of drug dealing at the bar, but said his client was not aware of it. He also cited a past incident in which his client was suspicious of illegal activity at his bar and called police for help.

Mr. Finkelstein said that, if his client was aware of the allegations that occurred in September, October and December, he would have called police again. Mr. Finkelstein said his client is willing to work with police.

Commission member Kevin O'Sullivan said it is not the responsibility of police to make bar owners aware of investigations.

"People have to clearly know we're not going to tolerate this stuff," Mr. O'Sullivan said.

The commission suspended the bar's liquor license for five days and warned Mr. Goodwin that any further infractions could result in a revocation.

The bar has been up for sale since May 2007. Mr. Goodwin is being treated for cancer.

The commission said Mr. Goodwin must meet with police so they can discuss security measures to stop the illegal activity. Mr. Goodwin also needs to make sure someone working at the bar keeps a close eye on any other suspicious activity, the commission said.

According to police reports and testimony at the hearing yesterday, the gang unit started an investigation last year.

On Sept. 5, police said, they arrested four people for allegedly buying or selling drugs, and that many of the deals were made either inside the bar or outside of it. One of the men arrested was Robert Nieves Jr., an Uxbridge man who pleaded guilty in 1994 to manslaughter in the 1993 drug-related shooting death of Carlos Young of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mr. Nieves was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison in the case.

Police reports said people met Mr. Nieves at the bar door. Mr. Nieves allegedly kept cocaine in a pill bottle and stored the bottle inside the bar's pool table.

On Oct. 10, gang unit members arrested two people on cocaine charges after officers conducted surveillance at the bar. Police said a man accused of selling the cocaine kept the drugs in a hollowed out bathroom stall door in the bar.

Police reports show that on Dec. 26, Mr. Nieves was arrested again for allegedly selling cocaine at the bar. This time, according to police, Mr. Nieves kept the drug tucked in a phone jack near the scratch ticket machine. Mr. Nieves' drug cases are pending in Worcester Superior Court.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 29, 2009
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