, Newburyport, MA

July 16, 2013

Boat Club owners to appear before ABCC today

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — NEWBURYPORT — Proprietors of the North End Boat Club are expected to be before the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission in Boston this afternoon pressing its case that the board reinstate the club’s liquor license, according to an ABCC official.

In February, the board indefinitely suspended the Mansion Avenue club’s liquor license in the wake of a fatal New Year’s Eve accident that police traced back to the Newburyport social club and marina off Merrimac Street.

In its ruling, the ABCC found the boat club in violation of five regulations — including hindering or delaying the investigation into the crash on the Route 1 Gillis Bridge just over the river in Salisbury that killed a 41-year-old East Hampstead, N.H., woman.

Police allege that Mikhael Sarkis of Lawrence, a bartender at North End Boat Club, was drunk when he left the property and got behind the wheel of his car with his girlfriend, Donna Bergeron, and another passenger, Clifford Pollard of Salisbury.

The three had been at the club, which was holding a New Year’s Eve party featuring live music. The accident occurred just one mile from the club.

The ABCC ruling immediately prohibited North End Boat Club from selling, displaying or giving away alcohol.

In addition to two counts of hindering or delaying the investigation, North End Boat Club was charged with:

Permitting an illegality regarding a change of officers and directors in the corporation for the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011

Failing to file the names and addresses of corporate officers with the commission since 1985

Two counts of failing to have a fire and building safety checklist (on Dec. 31 and again Jan. 2)

Two counts of failing to designate a crowd manager as required under the emergency planning and preparedness regulations.

Police and ABCC investigators have said manager Michael Rurak, whose name is on the club’s liquor license, refused to answer questions based on what he has said is the advice of legal counsel and has not turned over requested documentation. At February’s hearing, Rurak admitted the club violated the four paperwork and procedural statutes, but remained defiant on the hindering or delaying charge.

Bergeron was riding unbuckled in the front seat of the Lincoln Town Car operated by Sarkis, who entered the bridge in the wrong direction, heading north in the southbound lane. Sarkis crashed head-on into a Mercury Marquis driven by 20-year-old Corey Burgess of Salisbury.

Sarkis, who spent several weeks in a Boston-area hospital recovering from injuries, was indicted by a Salem Superior Court grand jury in May on vehicular homicide, manslaughter and other charges, and is awaiting trial.