UPDATE: Bar found not at fault.
There are two things everybody involved can agree on: Around 1:30 a.m. on July 5, the small entryway at Croke Park, 268 West Broadway, was filled with both pepper spray and a group of angry women.
But exactly who sprayed the tear-inducing substance and why remains a mystery that police have been unable to unravel.
On Thursday, the Boston Licensing Board has to decide whether Croke Park shares any of the blame for the eye-stinging cloud and, if so, what sort of punishment it deserves.
At a board hearing this morning, a BPD sergeant who rushed to the scene that morning said he could not make hide nor tails of what happened because everybody he talked to had a radically different account.
One woman who says she was sprayed said she was enjoying a beverage when one of her friends pointed at the bar, said there was going to be trouble and that the woman should go over to calm things down. A woman at the bar got up and started screaming, accusing a man of touching her bare back through the V-shaped, open-in-the-back top she wore. An attempt to calm her down failed, the woman decided it was time to leave and with her friends starts walking out. "As we're walking out, all of a sudden, a commotion starts. "I saw a gentleman grab one of the girls" and try to push her out. Then he whipped out a small canister of pepper spray and applied it on the women.
"It was completely unnecessary," she concluded.
But owner Danny Kelly told a different story: A guy he knew tried to come in with a bunch of women, who refused to show their IDs. Kelly said three of them in particular "had no intention whatsoever to give me ID." He said he asked them to leave and that he'd have to call police if they didn't leave. One regular customer, "a little Mexican guy" who Kelly said always tries to help him with stuff, put his hand on one woman's shoulder and told her "you should leave." Then she started screaming about how this guy had touched her. At that point, "it was an easy answer" - call the police - Kelly said.
So he called 911 - and then started worrying about how foolish he'd look if the cops arrived after the women had left, he testified. But he didn't have to worry - because one of the woman pulled out a pepper-spray canister and started spraying it everywhere, he said.
He said he realized later how the women could have gotten sprayed by their friend - the entryway has an air-conditioning vent that would have sucked in the spray and then pushed it back down on them.
"Everything he said is a lie," the woman retorted, adding she was the one who called police. And the women were let in without being asked for ID even though one was underage, she charged. Under questioning from board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini, she then acknowledged that, yes, "one girl did have mace," and that, yes, she may have pointed it at some guy. But a bar worker - and she suggested Kelly - had his own canister, she said.
"I didn't have any mace," Kelly replied.
Pulgini and police both urged Kelly to install video cameras to make it easier in the future to determine what goes on.
Police: Career criminal may have bitten off more than he could chew in South Boston.