Update: Licensing board rules the bar was not at fault, finds "no violation."
A bartender at the Tavern at the End of the World, 108 Cambridge St., in Charlestown, today recounted an early morning armed robbery in which a gunman repeatedly threatened to just shoot him as they rummaged the bar for money.
The bartender told his story of what happened early on Jan. 12 to the Boston Licensing Board - which held a hearing because after the bartender reported the robbery, police cited the bar for having two customers on the premises at 2:45 a.m. - 15 minutes later than allowed.
The bartender said the two men who were there past closing were not served drinks past the official closing time of 2 a.m. - bars then have a half-hour grace period to let customers finish up their orders. And they were there because he was trying to do a good deed on a bitterly cold night: The two were plumbers who had done work for the bar and he offered them a ride home if they could wait until after he had finished closing up the place for the night.
Around 2:45 a.m., after cleaning up and putting chairs up on tables, he told the board, he went out back to throw out the trash.
"A man popped up, masked, wearing a hat," he said. The man flashed a badge that he claimed showed he was with the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which also regulates liquor licenses, and said he was going to nail the bar for those two guys inside. Major violation, the "inspector" said, in fact, he was going to write the bar up right now. They went inside, the bartender explained to the plumbers he couldn't give them a ride home and they left.
"I was pretty upset with myself," because of the seriousness of such a violation, he recalled. "I turn around, the man pulls out a gun." He said he told the guy: "Hey man, if you're going to write me a ticket, you don't have to have a gun out."
The guy then admitted he wasn't with the state; he was there to rob the place. And for 20 minutes, he did just that, the bartender said. With the gun pointed at him, he made the bartender empty the till. "He had the gun at the back of my head, at one point, I felt it at the back of my neck."
But that wasn't enough; he demanded the bartender take him to the bar safe and open it up for him. Only problem: The bar didn't have a safe. "I'm going to shoot you if you don't tell me where the safe is," the robber said. The bartender got an inspiration: He led the man downstairs, where he knew there was, if not a safe, a small metal box with about $100 in singles inside.
As he was retrieving it, he said, the robber began ranting: "He's holding me at gunpoint, telling me he's with the mob, that the Irish owed the Italians in Providence a lot of money, and all this 'Goodfellas' stuff."
The two then went back upstairs, the bartender with a gun to his back as they climbed the stairs. Then, he said they went out back, through the bar patio and to the corner, where the man left the steel box and then, still pointing a gun, led the bartender back into the bar and ordered him to smash the bar phone and demanded the bartender's cell phone.
"I should just waste you right now," he said the robber told him. "To which I replied, I just want to go home to my dog."
Then, finally, the robber left. The bartender said the first thing he did was get down on the floor and "serpentine" his way to the back door and locked it - he said he was worried that if he walked there, the guy might be outside and finally make good on his threat to shoot him.
With no way to contact police, he said, he got in his car and drove to his home in a nearby town - taking an odd route just in case the guy was following him - and banged on his neighbor's door. She let him in to use her phone to call his bosses and police - who told him he would have to come into the station to file a report.
The bartender said he took about ten days off and spoke to a therapist about PTSD.
Tavern at the End of the World co-owner Tony O'Brien tallied up the losses: About $4,000 in cash, another $1,000 to replace the bartender's phone and now the cost of hiring a lawyer to deal with the licensing citation.
O'Brien said the bar has new policies: Once all the customers are out, by 2:30 a.m., workers are not allowed to open the door for anyone except police or inspectors - and they have to be in a pair. Trash has to be taken out before the last customer might leave, he said.
He acknowledged that the bartender should not have allowed the two plumbers to be on premises at 2:45 a.m, but asked for leniency from the board given his costs, the effect on the bartender and the fact he let police have "incriminating" video from that night in the hopes it could lead to the capture of the robber.
O'Brien said the man was captured, although not initially for the robbery: Police tracked him, first to New Hampshire, then to North Carolina, where he was captured after crashing his car, killing another driver.
The licensing board decides Thursday whether the citation merits punishment.