The owners of El Diamante billiards place, 71-73 Meridian St., have ordered its security guards to leave their pepper spray at home after a July incident in which a guard sprayed two obstreperous patrons with the noxious stuff.
Exactly why he sprayed the two men with OC spray proved a bone of contention at a Boston Licensing Board hearing today, and could help determine what action, if any, the board takes at a meeting on Thursday.
Sgt. William Toner said that around 1:10 a.m. on July 1, officers found a couple of men on Paris Street, "visibly in pain" and with tearing eyes after having been sprayed. The two said a security guard sprayed them for not paying their $24 bar tab. As officers were interviewing the two, one officer testified, the guard ran up and began yelling at the two, demanding payment - and kept yelling even after officers told him to pipe down. Eventually, "officers had to ask him to leave," Toner said.
But in his own testimony, the security guard said that, while, yes, he sprayed the two guys in the face inside the billiards hall, it was not over their bill but because they'd gotten into an argument with another patron and when a waitress tried to break that up, they pushed her to the ground. And then, he continued, as he rushed over one of the two raised his fist and appeared ready to punch him. He acknowledged he was very "frustrated" and that that was why he chased after the two guys.
Toner said this was the first he'd heard of that version of the incident. Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini questioned why nobody from El Diamante had told police their side of the story.
El Diamante attorney Michael Ford said that following the incident, El Diamante told the security company for which the guard works to bar its workers from carrying pepper spray while on duty there, and acknowledged the guard should not have applied it to the patrons' faces.
The board could take no action, issue a warning or suspend El Diamonte's liquor license for a specific number of days.