Pa. State Police Bureau of Liquor Enforcement named in lawsuit by restaurant owner

By Jon Campisi | Nov 30, 2011

A Philadelphia business owner who runs a BYOB restaurant and club in the city has filed a libel/slander/misrepresentation lawsuit against the Pennsylvania State Police’s Bureau of Liquor Enforcement, alleging investigators threatened to shut down the club due to a shooting on the premises that the plaintiff contends never occurred.

Northwest Philadelphia attorney Sharmil McKee filed the civil action Nov. 28 at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Jason Booker, who operates a bring-your-own-beer establishment called Tarde Noche.

William Latorre, a sergeant in charge of the Bureau of Liquor Enforcement, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

According to the complaint, Booker received a call from a police squad supervisor on July 19 of this year saying he was going to shut down the club because of a shooting that purportedly took place in the parking lot of the restaurant.

Booker, however, stressed that the shooting the officer was referencing had actually taken place at another after-hours club several blocks away from Tarde Noche.

The complaint alleges that no shootings or other crimes have taken place in the plaintiff’s parking lot since the business was first opened in early February of this year.

The very next day, the suit claims, Booker got calls from two neighboring business owners stating that the state police had contacted them and informed them that Tarde Noche was being shut down by authorities.

The complaint alleges that a few days after that, Booker received yet another call, this one from a nonprofit corporation that borrows space with Tarde Noche for fundraisers, which stated that two state troopers, while on duty in Northeast Philadelphia, claimed to have knowledge that Booker was selling alcohol and “we will catch him.”

The complaint states that during the past few weeks, state police have set up three undercover operations in an attempt to purchase alcohol at Tarde Noche, and each time the attempts failed at identifying any illegal activity.

The suit also claims that Tarde Noche has signs posted throughout the establishment that state the sale of alcohol is prohibited at the business.

To date, state police have not arrested Booker, and “therefore, the defendant’s statements to third parties are false,” the lawsuit states.

“The Defendant willfully, maliciously and intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon the Plaintiffs without just cause with the intent of harming the Plaintiffs without just cause and as a direct and proximate cause of Defendant’s and or his agents actions, the Plaintiffs were in fact irreparably harmed by the Defendant and or his agents,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit contains counts of defamation and unlawful business practices.

The plaintiff seeks actual damages in excess of $50,000 and punitive damages in excess of $50,000 plus attorney’s fees.

Booker also seeks a temporary injunction against the defendant preventing state troopers from continuing their harm to the plaintiff.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The case number is 111102531.

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