Alehouse bouncers await February plea date for assault charges | The Coast Halifax

Alehouse bouncers await February plea date for assault charges

Earlier complaints allege the Halifax pub’s security staff “have been overly eager to resort to violence.”

Monday at Halifax Provincial Court, the legal process began for Halifax Alehouse bouncers Alexander Pishori Levy and Matthew Brenton Day, who face assault charges after an Oct. 10, 2022 incident with a patron.

Halifax Alehouse bouncers Alexander Pishori Levy, 37, and Matthew Brenton Day, 33, will wait until Feb. 17 to enter their pleas in connection to assault charges the two face stemming from an October incident at the pub.

Both Levy and Day were scheduled to appear at the provincial courthouse on Spring Garden Road on Monday morning. Neither attended their court date in person; instead, a lawyer spoke on their behalf. As Global News reported last week, a patron alleges the two—who work as security staff at the Alehouse—assaulted him after escorting him out of the bar early in the morning on Oct. 10, 2022. The Halifax Regional Police tells The Coast that officers arrived at the Alehouse shortly after 2:35am following a call about an “unwanted person” at 5287 Prince Street. When the HRP arrived, Alehouse staff were restraining a man on the sidewalk. That man, Alehouse staffers allege, had been damaging property inside the bar.

Police have charged Levy and Day with one count each of assault. While those charges have not been tested in court, the allegations are the latest in a series of claims against the Alehouse and its security staff, who have been accused of being “overly eager to resort to violence.”

Monday’s court appearance also comes one full month since Ryan Michael Sawyer, 31, was killed outside the Brunswick Street bar in an incident that numerous online accounts have claimed involved an Alehouse bouncer. (At this time, The Coast has not been able to substantiate those claims—and neither the HRP nor the Alehouse have commented further.) In the meantime, we’ve continued to receive other allegations of violence involving the Alehouse’s security staff. And while we’ve reached out on several occasions to both the Alehouse’s ownership and management for comment on claims involving the bar’s staff, we have yet to receive a reply.

click to enlarge Alehouse bouncers await February plea date for assault charges
Photo: Martin Bauman / The Coast
The Halifax Alehouse and its security staff have been at the centre of several allegations involving violence. None have been proven in court.

‘They had a gauntlet of strikes waiting for me,’ patron alleges

Complaints against the Alehouse predate the October incident. Zach (not his real name) tells The Coast he still feels the occasional rib pain seven months after he claims he was assaulted by Alehouse bouncers during a night out at the bar. It was around 3:25am—minutes before closing time—in the early morning hours of June 25, 2022.

He’d been out with a “handful of coworkers and friends.” He says he was over-served that night but wasn’t disturbing anyone. Three bouncers came to escort him out of the bar. He was “unharmed” while in view of the other patrons, he tells The Coast, but once they reached the Alehouse’s back stairwell, there was a “gauntlet of strikes waiting” for him.

“I quickly tore my arms away to protect my face, so I didn’t get a good visual,” he says, “but there had to be a bare minimum of three people striking me simultaneously.” (The Coast hasn’t been able to confirm if Levy or Day were working at the Alehouse that night, or if they were among the alleged group of security staff involved.)

click to enlarge Alehouse bouncers await February plea date for assault charges
Photo provided.
Zach (not his real name) alleges that he was assaulted by “a bare minimum” of three Halifax Alehouse bouncers on June 25, 2022. He says he suffered two black eyes, torn skin on his bicep and a “cracked/broken” rib from the incident.

Zach covered his face, but ended up with “two shiners,” skin torn off his bicep and a “cracked/broken rib” that he claims took nine weeks to heal. He sent time-stamped photos of one black eye and a skinned bicep to The Coast, along with brief video footage of his removal from the Alehouse’s dance floor, but says he opted not to press charges due to circumstances surrounding my employment.” (For this reason, we’ve granted his request for anonymity.)

Now, he says, he’s reconsidering his reticence to press charges.

“They cannot uphold their liquor license obligations and cannot be relied on to mind the well-being of their patrons,” Zach tells The Coast.

We reached out to the Alehouse for comment, but could not arrange an interview before publication.

Alcohol and Gaming investigating Alehouse

Zach’s allegations aren’t the first levelled against the Halifax Alehouse and its bouncers. As The Coast reported, the province’s Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco division received a liquor licensing complaint against the Alehouse on Dec. 25, 2022, in the wake of Ryan Sawyer’s death.

The complaint alleges that the Alehouse’s security staff, over the past near-decade, “have been overly eager to resort to violence.” Last August, footage surfaced of as many as four men—several wearing what appear to be bar staff shirts—pinning a man to the ground for close to two minutes outside of the Alehouse before turning him over to police. At one point, a man wearing a staff-emblazoned shirt employs what looks like a headlock.

The Coast is not aware of any police arrests or charges that stemmed from August’s incident and, to The Coast’s knowledge, the Alehouse has not been implicated by Nova Scotia’s courts in any wrongdoing related to violence. (In 2013, in a separate matter, a Halifax man won a human rights complaint against the Alehouse for racial discrimination.)

We’ve asked the Alehouse’s ownership and management whether the bar’s bouncers receive any specific training in dealing with patrons, and if they’re aware of a perceived culture of violence. We have yet to receive a reply.

Police investigation into Sawyer’s death continues

One month since Ryan Michael Sawyer was found unresponsive on the sidewalk outside of the Alehouse in the early morning hours of Dec. 24, 2022, the HRP has yet to announce any charges or updates in its investigation. The Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service has ruled Sawyer’s death, which stemmed from a reported “disturbance involving several people” at Brunswick and Prince Streets, as a homicide. Police initially arrested one man, but released him without charges. A Dec. 24 HRP release said police were “not looking for any additional suspects.” The HRP has not disclosed any arrests since.

Police have not shared whether the Alehouse or any of its staff are under investigation in Sawyer’s death, but photos provided to The Coast from the night of the incident show a police officer in the upstairs window of the Brunswick Street bar.

click to enlarge Alehouse bouncers await February plea date for assault charges
Submitted
A police officer can be seen in the upstairs window of the Halifax Alehouse around 1:50am on the morning of Dec. 24, 2022.

It’s unclear from police reports whether Sawyer’s killing started with a dispute in the Alehouse or at one of the neighbouring bars, or how he ended up unresponsive on the Prince Street sidewalk on the morning of Dec. 24. That’s far from the only question surrounding his death. We still don’t know what factors led the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service to rule Sawyer’s death a homicide. We don’t know who police arrested and released. We also don’t know how many people were involved in the initial “disturbance,” who killed Sawyer or whether any charges are forthcoming.

Do you know more about what happened on the night of Dec. 23/early morning of Dec. 24? Send us an email at martin@thecoast.ca. We’ll never publish your name or any identifying details without your consent.

A note on anonymous sources: As a matter of journalistic principle, The Coast always strives for complete transparency in our reporting—and that includes full attribution for sources. On rare occasions, when the sensitivity of the story might impact a source, we offer anonymity—as we’ve done here. However, we always take complete measures to ensure the information’s accuracy.