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I-Team OUI Investigation Leads To Plans For New Liquor Law

By Kathy Curran, WBZ-TV
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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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BOSTON (CBS) — A state lawmaker is vowing to take action in the wake of an I-Team investigation, saying he plans to file legislation barring convicted drunk drivers from holding liquor licenses in Massachusetts.

The move by Sen. Steven Baddour (D-Methuen) came after the I-Team exposed a prominent Boston bar owner still driving despite losing his license from three drunk driving convictions.

Under current state law, people convicted of operating under the influence, even if they are repeat drunk drivers, can apply for a liquor license and can’t be denied because of their OUI’s.

WBZ-TV’s Kathy Curran reports.

Someone who already has a liquor license also can’t have that license taken away if they’re caught driving drunk.

“The only thing that will allow us to pull the license from an owner is if they’re convicted of a state or federal narcotics violation, that’s the standard,” said Boston Licensing Board chairman Michael Connolly. “Drunk driving is not written into the law.”

James Rooney, owner of the Baseball Tavern across from Fenway Park, was captured by the I-Team’s cameras driving his Mercedes Benz even though his license was suspended until 2016 after his third OUI conviction.

After the story aired, Rooney stepped down as manager of the Baseball Tavern and took his name off an application to take over another Boston bar.

“Mr. Rooney doesn’t want anything to affect the name of the Baseball Tavern or the Rooney Family,” Rooney’s lawyer, Robert Allen, told the licensing board.

But if Sen. Baddour is successful, Rooney will no longer have anything to do with the Baseball Tavern or any other bar in the state.

“As a result of your reporting there is that loophole and we need to close it,” Baddour told the I-Team. “You can’t have someone who just violates the alcohol laws owning a bar. It sends the wrong message. Who knows what else is happening in those types of establishments. The rules are the rules.”

Ron Bersani also wants the law changed. He was the driving force behind Melanie’s Law, which toughened the state’s drunk driving law. The law is named after his granddaughter, who was hit and killed by a repeat drunk driver.

“If you had a homeless shelter, I’m not sure you’d want a slumlord managing it,” Bersani said. “If you had a rape crisis center, I’m not sure you’d want a convicted sex offender managing that. I think if you have an establishment that serves liquor, you wouldn’t want a liquor offender in charge of that.”

Sen. Baddour plans to file a bill next month which would prevent convicted drunk drivers from getting liquor licenses for bars and restaurants.

Now, liquor licenses for package store owners can be denied to people convicted of any felony.

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