Police Activity Puts Murf’s Tavern Back in the Spotlight

Murf's Tavern on Division Street in Sag Harbor.

Murf’s Backstreet Tavern, a Division Street bar with a decades-long history in Sag Harbor, narrowly avoided losing its liquor license late last week, according to paperwork given to the Sag Harbor Village Police Department by officials from the New York State Liquor Authority on July 24.

This week, after a handful of incidents prompted calls to police in the early morning hours of Tuesday, July 31, Police Chief Austin J. McGuire said he would file further incident reports with the SLA on an establishment that Chief McGuire says has been visited by police 43 times since Memorial Day weekend, 2016, and 11 times since the beginning of this year.

According to Jade Kraft, a public information specialist with the SLA, the liquor authority issued a series of civil penalties earlier this year against Murf’s Backstreet Tavern, including $10,000 in fines, which Murf’s owner, Jay Hamel, pled no contest to. The fines were levied by the authority at the same time that it granted a more restrictive liquor license that required the bar to close at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. The SLA acted after incidents that prompted police visits to the bar.

Those fines had not been paid when SLA issued a revocation of the bar’s liquor license effective July 24, according to paperwork that was left with village police. According to Ms. Kraft, the SLA did receive payment from Mr. Hamel, and the revocation order was rescinded on July 27.

However, a series of events early Tuesday morning prompted Chief McGuire to contact SLA officials again regarding the bar. According to police records, on Tuesday at 1:30 a.m. police were called by a 29-year-old Manhattan resident who said he was assaulted on the back patio of the bar. According to Chief McGuire, while police were on the scene they saw two males, one who allegedly worked at the bar and another who was a patron, in a physical altercation on Division Street in front of the bar. Police broke up that fight and neither party pressed charges.

Chief McGuire said police received two more calls that night. A Main Street, Sag Harbor resident said at 3:25 a.m. he had found a man outside his balcony making sexual advances at him and using expletives. Police received a second report of a harassing individual, matching the description of the man, around 3:47 a.m. The victim, a Sag Harbor resident, said they were walking on Bay Street near the Sag Harbor Yacht Club when they were grabbed by the individual who touched their genitalia and buttocks. The victim recognized the assailant as someone they had seen earlier at Murf’s Backstreet Tavern, according to Chief McGuire.

“This is on a Monday night into Tuesday morning, when we usually see tumbleweeds coming down the street,” said Chief McGuire, who said both he and Mayor Sandra Schroeder were working in concert to contact the SLA about these incidences.

Attempts to reach Mr. Hamel by press time were unsuccessful.

Additional reporting by Christine Sampson