The Halifax Alehouse is facing two Liquor Control Act charges amid ongoing allegations of bouncer violence. The charges stem from an investigation launched in the days after 31-year-old Ryan Michael Sawyer was found “unresponsive” on the sidewalk outside the pub early on Dec. 24, 2022. Sawyer’s death was later ruled a homicide.
A source who has asked to remain anonymous told The Coast in January that the province’s Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco division had received a liquor licensing complaint against the Alehouse (a historic-themed tavern at 1717 Brunswick Street) on Christmas Day. That information was later verified by the province.
The complaint alleges that the Alehouse’s security staff, over the past near-decade, “have been overly eager to resort to violence.”
Two Alehouse bouncers, Alexander Pishori Levy and Matthew Brenton Day, are currently facing assault charges after allegedly attacking a patron on Oct. 10, 2022. Their trial is scheduled to resume in 2024.
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. That incident, The Coast has learned, is the subject of a lawsuit filed against the Alehouse in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
Yet another former patron alleges he faced a “gauntlet of strikes” from Alehouse door staffers after he was overserved and escorted out of the bar on June 25, 2022. He told The Coast in January that he wasn’t disturbing anyone, but “a bare minimum” of three security staffers left him with two black eyes, torn skin on his bicep and a “cracked/broken” rib from the incident. 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 hesitation to press charges.
“They cannot uphold their liquor license obligations and cannot be relied on to mind the well-being of their patrons,” he told The Coast.
None of the allegations against the Halifax Alehouse or its staff have been proven in court. The two bouncers facing assault charges, Levy and Day, maintain their innocence, and The Coast is not aware of any involvement from the two in the incidents from June, August and December 2022. The Coast has reached out to the Halifax Alehouse’s ownership and management on numerous occasions over the past five months—in-person, by phone and via email—for comment on allegations of staff violence, and whether the bar’s bouncers receive any specific training in dealing with patrons. We have yet to receive a reply.
Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to review charges
As the CBC’s Josh Hoffman first reported, the province’s Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco division’s investigation alleges that the Alehouse permitted activity deemed “detrimental to the order of the control of the premises.”
Speaking by phone with The Coast, the division’s executive director, John Paul Landry, says an infraction of that nature could include a “number of things,” from a history of fights to the sale of drugs. Landry adds that the Alehouse also faces an infraction for not reporting police charges stemming from an incident on or near its property. While Landry wouldn’t elaborate on how many incidents the province investigated, he says there are “other events” beyond Dec. 24 and Oct. 10 that led to the charge.
“It’s an ever-growing one; it’s before the [Nova Scotia Utility and Review] Board shortly,” he tells The Coast.
With its investigation complete, Landry says the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board will adjudicate the matter in the coming months. If the infractions hold, the punishment could include anything from conditional licensing, up to suspension or “permanent expiry of the license.”
New training requirements for cabaret security staff in Nova Scotia
Late last week, Nova Scotia’s government announced it will be beefing up requirements for security staff who work at late-night bars that stay open until 3:30am. Under the new provincial regulations, bar security staff working at so-called “cabarets” will need to complete a provincially mandated security course by July 1, 2023. They will also need to agree to criminal record checks upon request.
“Bouncers are there for one reason: to help keep people safe,” Service Nova Scotia minister Colton LeBlanc said in a statement. “This new training will give them the tools to better understand how to do that.”
The new requirements will apply to four Halifax venues, according to the province: The Dome, Level 8 Night Club & Lounge, HFX Sports Bar & Grill, The Halifax Alehouse and Toothy Moose Cabaret. The regulations will also affect Sydney’s Capri Cabaret.
Per a provincial statement, Nova Scotia’s government “plans to develop its own program,” but will be using Alberta’s online ProTect Security Training Program for now. Security staff will also need to complete a “responsible beverage service training program,” Serve Right.
Cabarets found to be in violation of the new requirements could risk having their liquor license suspended.
More to come on The Coast.