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It's a good thing there wasn't a fire at Mantra that night

An "alcohol-fueled" mass of brawling executives formed an impenetrable ball of trouble at the entrance to a downtown bar that ultimately led to five arrests and police using pepper spray to disperse the crowd early on Nov. 28, police and a bar attorney said today.

The melee was the latest in a string of incidents that have landed Mantra, 52 Temple Pl., before the Boston Licensing Board in recent months. The board will vote Thursday on what action, if any, to take on the latest incident, although of the three board members, only Chairman Daniel Pokaski attended today's hearing.

Boston Police Sgt. John McRyan told Pokaski that when he got to Temple Place around 2 a.m., most of Area A's officers were already on scene dealing with a large altercation both inside and outside the club. McRyan and club attorney Arthur Goldberg agreed on the basics of what happened:

The club that night had been rented to a group called New England Executives for a private party. About 150 people were inside near closing when two guys got into a fight near the coat check about 15 minutes before closing. Each had retinues of about 10 guys, who egged them on. The club's director of security arrived to break things up, got punched in the ear twice and nearly hit in the head with a bottle. Realizing things were now out of control, he called 911. Police arrived and began dealing with brawlers spilling outside. But people inside the club started smelling pepper spray and began to refuse to vacate the premises - essentially leaving a large bottleneck of angry, yelling execs milling right at the entrance.

McRyan said that even at 2:25 a.m., there were still 30 to 40 people inside. When he ordered club workers to get them out, one told him "What can I do? They won't leave."

McRyan said that five people out of the "highly alcohol-fueled crowd" were ultimately arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and assault and battery on a police officer. He added that in addition to the brawling, the club violated city licensing regulations because it was unable to provide a contact name for the private party.

Goldberg said the evening started peacefully, with an art show between 7 and 9 p.m. Goldberg speculated the executives were, like him, children of the 60s, who, at the end of the night began to react just like guys he sees at Patriots games: "There's some wise guys. ... They're upset, they're yelling 'police brutality.' ... They were punks, but they weren't our punks."

Pokaski begged to differ on that last point. "For the purposes of this evening, they were your punks. ... Rational people do not start fights. Rational people do not pick fights with uniformed Boston police officers. ... It's when people become irrational. Now what triggers that? The crowd. And the consumption of alcohol."

Pokaski said he did not fault the club for its reaction to the fight once it started. "My problem is why is it always the same place that we have issues?"

Goldberg said the club will no longer do rap and hiphop shows, and he noted the board has ordered the club to scale its closing time back to 1 a.m. He added he will be back before the board soon, because the club's owner is about to buy a hotel in Boston.

Pokaski had a two-word reply to that news: "Oh, God!"

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Good reporting, Adam. Keep up the excellent work.

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Well I know that the cannibals are wearing smart suits and ties
And I know they arm wrestle on the altar
And I say don't leave your heart in a hard place

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