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Howiee's rapped for bar brawls

Howiee’s on Front, a fixture in the downtown Medford bar scene for many years, is in danger of losing its liquor license after 51 serious or violent incidents in 31 months.

“Patrons have been hospitalized and/or suffered injuries,” according to a proposed license cancellation notice from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

OLCC has allowed Howiee’s to continue serving alcohol through Jan. 31, 2020, after which a new owner is scheduled to take over the bar. If the current owners are still operating after that date, the hammer would come down.

“They have to turn their license over after that,” said Matthew Van Sickle, spokesman for OLCC. They don’t have to close, but imagine a bar that doesn’t serve alcohol.”

David and Debra Hawkins are the current license holders for Howiee’s On Front Inc., and they are planning to sell the business to new owners before the deadline, Van Sickle said.

On Howiee’s Facebook page it states, “Howiee’s is not closing. We will simply have a new owner.”

The Facebook page doesn’t mention the license cancellation problem, and Howiee Hawkins, the previous owner, referred questions to David and Debra Hawkins. They didn’t return a call to the Mail Tribune Friday and didn’t respond to a Facebook message.

Van Sickle said David and Debra Hawkins have accepted letters of reprimand from OLCC. “They accepted responsibility for the violation,” he said.

The 15-page report from OLCC describes incidents where patrons have been highly intoxicated or where fights or altercations broke out between customers and staff.

On Jan. 1, 2017, at 1:56 a.m., a police officer arrived after receiving a report that a bouncer had knocked a drink out of a customer’s hand. “This led to a physical altercation between patrons and the employee,” according to a Medford police report.

On March 24, 2017, a customer said she blacked out and woke up on her mother’s patio at about 4 a.m. “The patron discovered that she had soreness and bruising around her genitals, according to a Medford police report. The woman went to the emergency room and was evaluated by a sexual assault nurse.

On April 2, 2017, a male customer shoved a female customer to the ground, pinning her with his leg and an arm across her neck. Medford police arrested the man, who had a blood alcohol level of 0.17 percent.

Other incidents included customers pulling knives and security employees being forced to handcuff a belligerent and highly intoxicated customer.

Basically, there were numerous bar fights at Howiee’s, according to the OLCC report.

On Nov. 30, 2018, several customers reported becoming ill after consuming drinks in an innovative way.

“This was a bizarre one,” Van Sickle said. “They were dispensing alcohol to patrons’ mouths via a syringe-like device.” Serving alcoholic beverages directly into a customer’s mouth is a violation of OLCC rules.

On March 10, 2019, at 1:38 a.m., a customer reported to police that a bartender grabbed him by the throat and threw him to the ground. Later the customer, who acknowledged he’d been drinking, said it wasn’t a bartender, but was in fact a security employee.

On May 25, 2019, at 11:53 p.m., police officers responded to a vehicle crash about seven blocks from Howiee’s. The driver fled the scene but was located and arrested for driving under the influence. “The driver, who was ‘extremely intoxicated,’ stated that he was at the licensed premises where he had ‘a couple of doubles’ before he drove,” according to the report. Police found he had a 0.20% blood alcohol level, more than twice the legal limit.

The OLLC report found that on July 19, 2018, bartender Christopher Gomez fought with a customer in violation of OLCC rules. According to OLCC, Gomez slapped a phone out of a customer’s hand, which started a fight. The customer sustained a head injury and complained of frequent headaches and still had a wound on his head eight months after the fight.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.