Halifax Alehouse bouncers enter pre-trial hearing for assault case | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia | 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.

Halifax Alehouse bouncers enter pre-trial hearing for assault case

The two door staffers are pleading not guilty to allegations that they attacked a patron in October 2022.

Two Halifax Alehouse security staffers accused of attacking a patron while they were on shift last October are back in provincial court on Wednesday, May 3. Alexander Pishori Levy, 37, and Matthew Brenton Day, 33, will both undergo a pre-trial hearing after pleading not guilty to a pair of assault charges stemming from an incident on Oct. 10, 2022.

At their last intake hearing on March 31, the defence lawyer representing both Levy and Day entered their pleas by telephone before Halifax provincial court judge Kelly Serbu. The intake hearing marked the fifth time the two bouncers have been summoned before the court since last October’s alleged assault. It also followed concerns from the Crown about a range of issues, from delays in the trial’s proceedings to the defence’s plans for legal representation.

Man claims he was choked, punched in the face by bouncers

The claims against Levy and Day stem from an early-morning incident at the Alehouse on Oct. 10 of last year. Halifax Regional Police told The Coast that officers arrived at the Alehouse that morning shortly after 2:35am, following a call about an “unwanted person” at 5287 Prince Street. When the HRP arrived, police say Alehouse staff were restraining a man on the sidewalk. That man, Alehouse staffers allege, had been damaging property inside the bar. But that story varies significantly from what the man who was being restrained remembers.

As CBC News first reported in February, a 21-year-old Halifax man claims he was ordering a beer at the Alehouse on Oct. 10 when a bouncer tapped his shoulder and told him to leave. He says he wasn’t offered any further explanation. The man—whose identity The Coast has reviewed, but is not disclosing due to the event’s sensitive nature—claims that once he was escorted outside onto the Prince Street sidewalk, the Alehouse’s bouncers taunted him, before one bouncer punched him on the side of the head. He claims that he was held in a chokehold, punched in the face and stomped on by several of the bouncers. He further alleges that the incident left him with a concussion; he says he couldn’t walk for days.

The Coast has reached out to the Alehouse’s ownership and management for a response on numerous occasions. We have yet to receive a reply.

Concerns over trial delays

Complaints of potential trial delays first surfaced at the bouncers’ March 22, 2023 intake hearing—their fourth such hearing without entering a plea. Both Levy and Day first appeared at the Spring Garden Road courthouse on Nov. 29, 2022, but asked for their case to be postponed while they sought legal aid. The two were scheduled for three more plea hearings—on Jan. 23, Feb. 17 and March 22—with each pushed back to a later date. Neither has attended a court date in person since the November hearing; instead, defence lawyer James Giacomantonio has spoken on their behalf. And on March 22, in asking for another court date, Giacomantonio argued that his clients hadn’t been given access to potentially key video evidence.

Speaking by phone before judge Serbu, Giacomantonio argued that his clients had yet to receive access to a cell phone video recording that the Crown possesses from the night of the alleged October assault. That video recording, the court heard, was taken by a witness at the scene. Crown attorney Nick Comeau countered that his office has made the video available to the defence as far back as March 8, provided the accused agree to sign an undertaking—essentially, a list of conditions they promise to uphold while their case is before the court.

Comeau questioned the defence’s request for an adjournment, given the brevity of the video in question: “The hurdle in the way is an approximately one-second video. I hope I’ve stated that as clearly as possible.”

That concern was echoed by judge Serbu, who told Giacomantonio, “I don’t see how a one-second video should stall you from entering pleas at this time.”

Pre-trial to raise issues, potential evidence

When lawyers for the Crown and defence meet Wednesday, they’ll be undertaking a pre-trial hearing—in short, a meeting to air any issues, including potential evidence to include or exclude, so as to keep the trial “fair and expeditious.” On March 31, Giacomantonio told judge Serbu there are “at least five potential witnesses, perhaps up to seven,” and “a lot of video, both inside and outside of the bar” that’s likely to form a “significant part” of the defence’s cross-examination.

The trial itself—expected to last three days—will begin on April 30, 2024. In the interim, the bouncers are prohibited, per court order, from communicating with the 21-year-old alleged victim or venturing within 25 metres of any of his known addresses.

No further details into Sawyer’s death on Dec. 24

Last October’s alleged assault isn’t the only incident to have followed the Alehouse. More than four months ago, Ryan Michael Sawyer was found unresponsive on the sidewalk outside of the Alehouse in the early morning hours of Dec. 24, 2022. He was pronounced dead later that morning.

click to enlarge Halifax Alehouse bouncers enter pre-trial hearing for assault case
A police officer can be seen in the upstairs window of the Halifax Alehouse around 1:50am on the morning of Dec. 24, 2022.

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.

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. Sawyer himself was found on Prince Street, not far from the Alehouse’s side door.

Several social media reports—as well as a witness who spoke with CBC News—have linked the incident as having involved a bouncer at the Alehouse, but The Coast has not been able to substantiate those accounts at this time. The HRP has declined to comment further.

“With any investigation,” HRP spokesperson Const. John MacLeod told The Coast in January, “we wouldn’t provide any information in relation to any of the individuals involved until we’re at a position where we’re laying charges, and those charges have been sworn before the courts.”

The Coast has reached out to the Alehouse’s ownership and management for comment on what happened on the night of Dec. 23 and morning of Dec. 24, 2022. We have yet to receive a reply.

Martin Bauman

Martin Bauman, The Coast's News & Business Reporter, is an award-winning journalist and interviewer, whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, Capital Daily, and Waterloo Region Record, among other places. In 2020, he was named one of five “emergent” nonfiction writers by the RBC Taylor Prize...
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