State liquor officials last week suspended the license of two Manchester nightclubs — Whiskey’s 20 and Jewel Music Venue — claiming recurring violations of COVID-19 guidelines.
But the lawyer for one of the clubs, Whiskey’s 20, said the New Hampshire Liquor Commission provided no details about what specific transgressions led to the suspension, which is required by state law.
“They (the Liquor Commission) just had it out for him,” said Manchester attorney Robert Fojo, referring to the club’s owner.
The club plans to fight the suspension during a hearing next week, Fojo said.
The owner of Jewel said he hopes to avoid a hearing and have resolution from the commission.
“I’ve been working with them for four days to come up with a solution that makes them happy and allows us to reopen,” said John Crosson.
The Liquor Commission suspended Whiskey 20’s license on Jan. 1. It suspended the Jewel license on Jan. 3.
In an emailed statement, the chief of the commission’s Bureau of Enforcement said his workers have provided education and guidance for holders of liquor licenses.
“Unfortunately, Whiskey 20 and Jewel chose to disregard the health and safety guidance and our established liquor laws despite NHLC’s repeated educational efforts,” wrote Chief Mark Armaganian.
He said most licensees have shown a high rate of compliance. Liquor Commission spokesman E.J. Powers said Whiskey’s 20 and Jewel are the only clubs to have their license suspended over pandemic-related issues.
The Liquor Commission has scheduled video hearings for both clubs on Jan. 14. Both clubs are in an area of downtown just south of Granite Street.
Fojo and Crosson said their respective clubs go beyond the guidelines issued by Gov. Chris Sununu in June. Whiskey’s 20 reduced its capacity to 40%; Jewel’s is about a third of pre-coronavirus limit. Fojo said Whiskey’s 20 employees are temperature screened, and disc jockeys remind patrons every 10 minutes to wear masks.
He said contact tracing has not attributed one case of COVID-19 to Whiskey’s 20.
Crosson said Jewel does temperature checks on employees and customers. It stopped live performances and now provides only disc jockeys.
He said a problem emerged Jan. 2 when a Jewel bouncer took bribes and allowed too many people into the club. He will now have two bouncers at all entrances.