To county police veteran Cpl. Jeff King, the loud young man appeared drunk. He had knocked over his beer at Mangia Italian Grill, danced on the bar, used racial epithets on his phone and tried to get back up on the bar.
But the county Alcoholic Beverage Hearing Board's inquiry into the matter showed things may not always be as they seem. The board found that the off-duty officer's observations were insufficient to conclude the man was drunk. Instead, the board ruled that the owners of the Marriottsville Road restaurant were not guilty of serving an inebriated person, according to a written decision on the case released Tuesday.
According to the board's decision, the incident began about 7:30 p.m. April 6, a busy Sunday night at Mangia, which is in a shopping center near Waverly Woods. King and a friend were patrons, enjoying a swing band that was performing.
The three young men across the bar were drinking, King told the board, and one was especially loud and appeared drunk. Only a nickname for the man was listed in the board's written decision.
The man kept getting up to play a video machine and seemed unsteady on his feet, according to the board's account. He knocked over his beer and was given another. King told the board that the man had the normal characteristics of someone who is drunk - poor coordination, a flushed look, bloodshot eyes.
King said the barmaids had to coax the man off the bar after his first dance, and the manager, Herbert Bryant, talked to the man after a second attempt to climb on the bar.
Bryant told the three members of the five-person board who were present that the man is a regular at Mangia. He likes to dance, and he's "someone who likes to be the center of attention, is often loud and can be either funny or obnoxious," Bryant said.
Licensee Russell Preisinger told the board he has met the man a few times, too, and agreed that he is "loud and obnoxious."
Bryant said the man had been at the bar since 5 p.m., but that after the second attempt at bar-top dancing, he told the man to leave and stopped serving him beer while he waited for a friend to pick him up. But Bryant said he didn't slur his words and didn't seem drunk.
King talked to Bryant that night about the incident and said the manager never mentioned cutting off the man's beer. King didn't take any other action that night, but he reported it to Detective Martin Johnson, the county's liquor inspector, a few days later. The liquor board charge resulted from Johnson's investigation.
In the report, the board said it found that knocking over a beer isn't unusual for the man, and neither were his loud talk and dancing. Based on testimony from both sides, the board found that the man was served one beer that evening and "was not visibly intoxicated." King was unfamiliar with the man's normal behavior and was sitting more than 10 feet away, the decision said.
The board found that the restaurant "acted appropriately ... to promote the peace and safety of the community."