BREAKING NEWS: Sticky Rice’s Liquor License Suspended for 15 Days for Ejecting ABRA Investigators

Sticy Rice (credit: Capitol City Eats

As first reported by Barred in DC on Twitter, the hipster sushi/dance party H Street spot Sticky Rice has been severely punished by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board for ejecting two Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) investigators last New Year’s Eve.  The bar cannot serve booze for a 15 day period next month and must pay a $4,000 fine; another 10 days of the liquor license suspension will be served if any violations occur in the next year. Barring any appeals, the bar will be closed from November 13-27, 2013, a staggering blow to the operators and employees of Sticky Rice.

According to the Board’s order, two ABRA investigators entered Sticky Rice for a “routine compliance check” while “monitoring establishments in the H Street [corridor] as part of a [NYE] initiative conducted by ABRA.”  Jason Martin, one of the owners of Sticky Rice (as well as the nearby Dangerously Delicious and Rock & Roll Hotel), accused one of the investigators of having fake identification and refused to let them examine the licenses they had requested to view.  He then “began cursing and yelling, ordering the investigators to leave the establishment, and calling on security to eject the investigators,” and apparently made some physical contact with the investigators. A few bouncers escorted the investigators out; an ABRA supervisor soon showed up and confirmed to Martin that both of these investigators were indeed employed by ABRA.  This did not placate Martin as he continued screaming at the investigators.  The investigators stated that his behavior was “strange,” “incoherent, and “bizarre” and thought his eyes looked “funny.”

The Board did not find credible Martin’s explanation that one of the investigators was carrying his supervisor’s identification instead of his own.  Instead, the Board was “quite convinced that Mr. Martin’s actions and behavior risked causing a dangerous confrontation between security and ABRA’s investigators” and that he “unjustifiably interfered with an ABRA investigation” in violation of D.C. law.

The decision that Sticky Rice violated the law was unanimous; however, the chair of the Board, Ruthanne Miller, dissented from the imposed penalty.  Miller thought it was “unusually severe … not commensurate with the ‘crime’ [and did] not serve the public interest.” She explained that Martin’s actions were “not based on any real intent” and “not rational,” and no one was physically harmed in the incident.  According to Miller, the “problem …was [Martin’s] aberrant behavior” yet there “had been no follow-up to determine if this behavior was a one-night occurrence or whether such behavior is continuing.” Instead of a suspension and fine, she would have simply “monitor[ed] the establishment.”

Sticky Rice has until the end of the month to file a motion that the Board reconsider its decision; it can also appeal to the D.C Court of Appeals.  The H Street/Trinidad blog Frozen Tropics had not received any comment from the bar as of the time of this story’s posting.

UPDATE 10/21: Added follow-up post containing Martin’s statement to the Board, along with other reaction.


5 responses to “BREAKING NEWS: Sticky Rice’s Liquor License Suspended for 15 Days for Ejecting ABRA Investigators”

  1. 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.
    Mark Thorp

  2. […] 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), […]

  3. […] BREAKING NEWS: Sticky Rice’s Liquor License Suspended for 15 Days for Ejecting ABRA Investigat… […]

  4. […] 20, 2013: First big breaking news by Barred in DC. The Washington Post credits me later the same week , which was […]

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