YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Martell’s Tiki Bar in Point Pleasant Beach will pay a $500,000 fine and have its alcohol license suspended for a month this fall for serving alcohol to a drunken Bergen Community College psychology professor who was killed after she crashed a stolen SUV while driving the wrong way on a Middlesex County highway.
Ashley Sara Chieco, 26, had a blood-alcohol level of .189 – more than double the legal limit – at the time of her autopsy. Adderall or a similar drug was also found in her system, authorities said.
Chieco spent hours downing screwdrivers and vodka shots at Martell’s on Aug. 16, 2013 before getting into the wrong SUV and trying to drive home. She was headed north on southbound Route 18 when the vehicle slammed into one drive by a 55-year-old nurse on her way to work.
The crash broke nearly every bone in the other woman’s body, said her attorney, who filed suit against Martell’s earlier this year.
Chieco, who was living with her parents in Wood-Ridge at the time, was a crisis counselor with a master’s degree who taught psychology at BCC and worked as a supervisor at the Mental Health Association of New York City. She’d planned to pursue a doctorate, her parents said.
In addition to the state fine, Martell’s — which pleaded no-contest to charges of serving an intoxicated patron — will have its license to serve alcohol suspended from this Sept. 28 to Oct. 28, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in announcing the settlement, negotiated with the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).
As part of the deal, “all staff involved in the service of alcohol at Martell’s will be required to undergo training in the safe service of alcohol, which will be overseen by a compliance monitor approved by the ABC and paid for by Martell’s,” Hoffman said.
“The monitoring requirement will last as long as the current owners hold an interest in the alcoholic beverage license,” he said.
“There can be deadly consequences when alcohol and driving are mixed, so it is vitally important that establishments that serve alcohol, do so responsibly,” Hoffman noted. “It is unlawful in this state to serve alcohol to a person who is actually or apparently intoxicated and the repercussions of not abiding by the law have been brought to bear in this tragic case.”
“Our office has repeatedly pursued and penalized establishments that do not keep close watch over who and how much they serve,” said Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Michael Halfacre. “Now is the time for all license holders to review their standards and practices for alcohol service to ensure that another tragedy like this one does not occur.”
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