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The chairperson of the Boston Licensing Board called the death of a Marine veteran allegedly at the hands of a Sons of Boston bar bouncer “foreseeable and preventable” on Thursday, just before the board voted to indefinitely suspend the downtown bar’s liquor license.
“The entire security operation from beginning to end was a failure,” chairperson Kathleen Joyce said during the board’s virtual meeting.
The unanimous vote came two days after the board received surveillance video footage and heard testimony from bar staff about what happened on March 19.
Jason Kuczynski, a bar manager, said he was not aware that the now former bouncer in question, Alvaro O. Larrama, was carrying a knife, in violation of the bar’s policy.
Kuczynski also said he did not conduct the criminal background check required by law when he hired the 38-year-old bouncer from a neighboring bar last year.
“This is an operator that is either unable or unwilling to put proper measures in place to provide the duty of care they owe their patrons and to the public,” Joyce said on Thursday. “I don’t believe Sons of Boston can adequately protect the public within their license permits, and I do not believe they are operating a law-abiding business. I believe it’s unsafe for them to continue to operate.”
Boston police seized the bar’s entertainment license days after the stabbing. As a result, Sons of Boston has remained open, but without live music.
An attorney representing Sons of Boston could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.
Prosecutors allege Larrama killed Daniel Martinez, an Illinois native who came to Boston for St. Patrick’s Day, after turning Martinez and his friend away from the bar, following him, and stabbing him during a fight.
Bystanders intervened in the altercation, and Larrama was led inside Sons of Boston by fellow staff, police have said.
Kucyznski testified Tuesday he did not complete a background check when he hired Larrama because he “thought that would have already been done” by Larrama’s previous employer.
Liam Curran, a board member, said Thursday the bar’s decision to hire Larrama, who has a criminal record that includes several domestic violence charges in recent years, was “the first fatal flaw.”
“It’s the natural approximate cause of this failure that led to Mr. Martinez’s death,” Curran said. “Their failure to look into Mr. Larrama’s character and fitness — not only by a formal background check — but they couldn’t even speak to an internet search, references checked, established personal relationships. I think that their explanation of what caused them to see him fit to be their security was completely unreasonable.”
Larrama was not the only questionable hire by the establishment, according to Joyce.
“Sons of Boston has shown a pattern of negligent hiring and retention, and Larrama is just one of many examples,” she said.
Joyce described the operations of Sons of Boston as a “breakdown of management” that has been made clear to the licensing board following other incidents in recent months.
In December, Sons of Boston staff appeared before the board after a bouncer allegedly assaulted another bouncer and threatened patrons and police, according to Joyce.
At the time, representatives of the bar said the bouncer was a “rogue employee” and was fired, Joyce said.
“I think we expected it to be a wake up call,” Curran said. “The way Sons of Boston spoke in that hearing, I thought that they were telling us that it was a wake up call for them.”
But the board received additional complaints after two security staffers allegedly put a patron in a chokehold and kicked him out of the bar, Joyce said.
At the board’s request, Sons of Boston was supposed to submit a security plan when the bar initially applied for an entertainment license. But Joyce said she had not received one even after the March 19 stabbing.
When the bar finally provided a draft plan in the weeks since, the document “did not even include the word, ‘training,’” she said.
“This, combined with previous reports of assault at the hands of their employees, signaled to me that the problem is management, with no meaningful training protocol in place, with inadequate hiring procedures, and with seemingly no control over their own staff,” Joyce said. “This complete absence of a security plan or any real training on patron interaction and de-escalation contributed to Daniel Martinez’s death.”
Joyce was also critical of the bar’s failure to call police for the March stabbing, even after Larrama fled, which she described as a “stunning lapse in judgment.”
“Not only were the police not called but nobody did anything to detain Mr. Larrama,” she said. “Video footage provided by Sons of Boston shows Mr. Larrama walking freely around the establishment, talking to several employees including Mr. Kacyznski. And (at) another point we see a female employee bringing (Larrama) a change of clothes in the basement before he ultimately leaves out the back door.”
Kucynzki said earlier this week Larrama approached him after the stabbing.
“He was telling me that he had gotten in a fight outside,” the bar manager said Tuesday. “Then a security member from a different restaurant [also came in] and said that there was a stabbing upfront, at which point I said to both guys, ‘I’ll be right back,’ and made my way to the front door and came upon the scene outside.”
Paramedics and police had already arrived, he said.
Kuczynski was told by security from other bars that Larrama was the perpetrator, he said. Kuczynski said he then directed a staff member to look for Larrama, but he was already gone.
Last week, Martinez’s family announced plans to sue Sons of Boston in an effort to find answers about what happened that night.
Licensing board member Keeana Saxon said Thursday she thinks a “series of abject failures” led to Martinez’s death.
“This whole incident could have been prevented,” Saxon said. “Someone could have intervened. Someone could have reported to management. Someone could have called the police. It was foreseeable.”
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