As a follow-up to the story Barred in DC broke yesterday (which gained me 60 new Twitter followers and over 1,200 hits today-not bad for a fake journalist), I took a quick look at the July 2013 Hearing Transcript (you can review yourself) to pull out the statement Jason Martin (Sticky Rice owner) offered at the hearing, rounded up stories and comments reacting to the news, and obtained a copy of the investigative report (which doesn’t add much to the account relayed in the Board’s order).
UPDATE 10/22: Sticky Rice’s Twitter account somewhat cryptically tweeted at 10pm last night (10/21) “don’t believe everything”
Hearing Transcript – Jason Martin Statement
Even I don’t have time to read the 236 page hearing transcript, but I pulled out part of Jason Martin’s prepared statement to the board (pp. 120-26 of the transcript) [UPDATE 10/22: Jason Martin e-mailed me the text of the written statement that he submitted to the Board, which differed slightly than what was transcribed; I’ve now replaced the transcribed version with the excerpt of the text he sent me]:
… I was alerted by staff that two ABRA investigators would like to speak with the manager on duty. I introduced myself as the owner of the restaurant. For some reason—perhaps because they were nearing the end of an undoubtedly long night—the two men met me with very high-energy, acting aggressive and agitated. It was at this point that I asked the first gentleman (Mr. Apraku) for identification. Mr. Apraku showed me a black wallet which housed a badge, but no photo identification. I then asked the second gentleman (Mr. Jones) for his identification he quickly flashed a wallet housing a badge and photo ID of someone who was clearly not him. I attempted to obtain a closer look at the Identification but was told that I need to remove my hands from the ID. I complied but after seeing the clearly false identification, I was left with heightened anxiety about the potentially dangerous situation I could be dealing with, such as two random men using tactics to gain access to a back room or office. I was also particularly concerned by the false identification which was shown to me because I knew Sticky Rice was in compliance with paying for extended operating hours on New Year’s Eve and was not sure why any real ABRA official would not already had record of this.
Making sure that security was close I escorted the two men to the second floor sushi bar where the license was displayed in a picture frame. Due to the fact that there is an entrance to the office located behind the sushi bar, I extended my arm and said “wait right here.”
After retrieving the frame with my ABRA license and putting it on the bar where the two men verified that I did have the extended license to stay open until 4:00am, I asked to see Mr. Jones’ identification one more time. He complied and when I held his photo ID up for a comparison to who was standing in front of me, it was clearly not him. I exclaimed: “That is not you! The photo is of someone else!” Mr. Jones attempted to take back the false credentials, which I allowed him to do after I looked at the photo a third time and stated, “that is a fake ID.” They claimed that their credentials were real, but with one man showing no valid government photo ID and the second man showing that of a third man (later to be identified as Mr. Stewart), I was still unsure of who they were and I asked them to leave the building since I had fully complied with their requests to view the license.
The two gentlemen informed me that I was not allowed to ask them to leave, which further intimidated me and left me feeling extremely uncomfortable about who these men were and what they wanted. I responded: “You have now seen my license and that I am allowed to stay open until 4:00am and you have shown me a fake ID, please leave.” They refused, resulting in my calling for security to remove them from the building, which is what my security personnel did.
Approximately 45 minutes later, they returned with a third gentleman who informed me that he was their supervisor (Mr. Stewart). I asked to see his credentials and when he produced them for me, I found that the photo ID was in fact Mr. Stewart but it was also the exact same photo ID that Mr. Jones had presented to me earlier. I asked “why he would present me with someone else’s ID?” Mr. Jones attempted to speak but Mr. Stewart stopped him and said “Please be quiet.” Mr. Stewart then assured me that their credentials were real and that I was not allowed to interfere with an ABRA investigation, to which I tried to explain to Mr. Stewart that without proper Identification I did not know who they were and this was not alright.
To further put this incident into perspective and how I was approaching it as a seasoned business owner, I would like to point out that if a random patron gained access to my establishment and then presented a fake ID, particularly late at night on a busy holiday, I would have asked them to leave immediately. Furthermore, if they refused, I would not hesitate to have my security staff remove them from the building.
I am not trying to accuse the ABRA investigators of intentionally trying to deceive me, as it is possible that maybe Mr. Jones simply grabbed the wrong wallet and badge and was not aware until I pointed it out, but it does not make it any more acceptable on the receiving end of it. In hindsight, I should have called 911 immediately, told them that someone claiming to be an ABRA investigator showed me false credentials, and asked MPD to come investigate. At the time, however, I felt as though I was being proactive in handling the situation by showing the men what they wanted and reducing the possibility of a scary incident….
Mark Thorp, owner of Little Miss Whiskey’s and Jimmy Valentine’s, left this comment on Barred in DC, Frozen Tropics & DCist:
The testimony given by the ABRA investigators does not appear truthful. Jason Martin has over 7 years of intense, hands-on experience with 3 ABRA-licensed businesses, and a “routine compliance check” (in which the investigators simply verify that all relevant business licenses are up to date and that the business is operating accordingly) would not provoke this alleged behavior from him.
Mr. Martin states that one of the investigators did not have ABRA identification, and the other investigator produced an ID that did not belong to him (and which Mr. Martin states belonged to the ABRA supervisor that arrived after the incident). After being shown a “fake” ID, Mr Martin had the investigators evicted by security personnel, which action is completely reasonable and within the boundaries of the law.
The investigators testified that they had proper ID when Mr. Martin first asked for them. If this was true, why would Mr. Martin refuse to show his relevant business licenses? The licenses were clearly in order because there are no ABRA charges to the contrary, so Mr. Martin was not at risk. 8 months after the incident, why would Mr. Martin further jeopardize his business- much less waste considerable time and money on attorney fees- by fighting these charges? The penalty initially offered is always significantly less than the punishment faced by the business if it loses its fight against the charges.
I am a fellow business owner on H Street as well as a former employee of Jason Martin, and I have been witness many times to Mr. Martin’s careful, calm, and considered management of difficult and sometimes confrontational situations. I do not share any financial interests with him, nor do I stand to receive any personal gain by asserting my belief that Jason Martin acted properly and responsibly, and that the ABRA investigators are not telling the truth.
Commenter “nunya” left this comment on the PoPville story:
I know all these guys and I know the story outside of what’s in that document.
The ABRA people didn’t have their credentials in order at all and were generally acting weird and trying to get into areas of the restaurant they shouldn’t have been going into. I’m not saying that all of the decisions that were made were the correct ones, but there is still a lot of ass-covering going on here and the penalty is way too harsh for what actually happened. ABRA is trying to send a very strong message that you can’t kick their people out under any circumstances, which I can understand, but this is a real ugly way to try to make that point and I don’t believe they’re on the strongest footing.
No, there was nothing illegal going on. No, no one was trying to pull a fast one on anybody. This was just a bad situation on the craziest bar night of the year that started messy and stayed that way.
Update from DCist:
Update: Sticky Rice has not appealed the ruling, according an ABRA public information officer: “ABRA, to date, has not received any submissions from the licensee regarding the ABC Board Order that was issued on October 16, 2013, to Sticky Rice.
Stories Crediting Barred in DC