Free Food and Alcohol Party Held at Eclipse Restaurant During Power Blackout Lands Chef in Hot Water
After four seemingly drunk Smith College students said they attended a party at Eclipse on the night of Oct. 30, their dorm supervisor called the police. Now the cops have filed a complaint with the city’s License Commission.
by AMANDA DRANE
NORTHAMPTON — Northampton Police Chief Russell Sienkiewicz has requested the city License Commission hold a formal violation hearing for the Eclipse restaurant and wine bar at 186 Main St. for serving four underage Smith College students during the Oct. 30 snowstorm-related blackout, city records show.
About 10 p.m. that night, city police Patrolmen William LeBrun, Donald Nichols, and Adam Van Buskirk found head chef Zacharia Gorham, 38, completely naked inside the unlocked and candlelit restaurant, according to police narratives. The officers observed Gorham sitting in a booth next to girlfriend Angela Dupuis, then 21, who was partially clothed. Both LeBrun and Van Buskirk described Gorham as appearing intoxicated.
“Gorham’s eyes were bloodshot, and he smelled of an alcoholic beverage. He appeared unsteady on his feet and was slow in putting his pants on,” wrote Officer Lebrun in his narrative of the incident.
“It was a little embarrassing, but I understand that they have a job to do,” Gorham said of his run-in with the officers in a telephone conversation with Northampton Media.
Smith Campus Officials Investigate
The police visited the restaurant that evening after receiving a call from Katie Weiser, 20, the head resident advisor of Duckett House at Smith College.
Weiser informed police that five students living in the house drank to intoxication that Sunday night at Eclipse. A fire alarm was triggered on campus, at which time Weiser was made aware that the students appeared intoxicated. Weiser then performed a search of their living area and found one of the girls vomiting in the bathroom.
After being questioned, students Alyson Gile, Caroline Quinn, Erin Desetti, Kate Romagnoli, and Sarah D’Angelo told Weiser they had attended a party that night at Eclipse. Because Quinn, Desetti, Romagnoli, and D’Angelo are under 21, Weiser called the city police.
When asked by the officers if he had served anyone underage that night, Gorham said that he “more than likely did,” according to reports. He explained that he had thrown a Halloween party for friends, yet decided to open up the doors and give all the day’s food and liquor away because of the storm. He conceded that many Smith College students were there and that he did not ask for identification.
But Dupuis told officers that she and her boyfriend had been hosting a private party, and that everyone there was 21 or older.
In their reports, the police officers noted that Eclipse’s tables and bar were covered in half-filled wine glasses and plates still containing food.
A Halloween Party Gone Awry
In a telephone conversation with Northampton Media, Gorham clarified that the party started out as a private event for invited guests over the age of 21. After 24 hours without electricity, Gorham said, he decided to use the food and alcohol for a Halloween party before it went bad and had to be thrown away.
“My desire was to bring the community together in a time of trouble,” said Gorham.
Gorham explained that people walking through the dark streets were curious and started coming inside. He told Northampton Media that he didn’t have the staffing or sufficient lighting to ask for identification, but he let people in as a gesture.
“Everyone was anxious and worried,” Gorham said.
On Nov. 2, city Police Officer LeBrun met with Smith College Associate Director of Public Safety Scott Graham. Graham, LeBrun’s report states, said that Gile, Quinn, Desetti, Romagnoli, and D’Angelo had all sought legal representation for fear that the police would seek charges against them.
LeBrun did not speak with the five students, but interviewed and took written statements from Weiser and fellow resident advisor Kiara Gomez, 19, at the Northampton police station on Center Street. Weiser named two student witnesses she said would attest that a “free alcohol party” was held at Eclipse that night. Gomez said she had also heard students discussing the party, the police reports indicate.
No Criminal Charges Filed
After the Nov.2 meeting, Northampton police decided not to file criminal charges against Gorham “due to the inability to contact the involved students,” LeBrun wrote in his report.
Instead, Sienkiewicz and Police Captain Joseph Koncas requested the License Commission hold a violation hearing at its Dec. 7 meeting, as the following week Smith College will begin its month-long winter vacation.
The complaint charges Gorham with four counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor. Eclipse 186 Main LLC is registered under the name of Gorham’s mother, Jean Weller. She is also listed as the manager on Eclipse’s seasonal wine and malt restaurant license.
LeBrun, Van Buskirk, Gomez, Gorham, Dupuis, and Weiser will be subpoenaed to attend the hearing.
Officers have been called to Eclipse a number of times because of loud music, records show. On one such occasion in March, police found an employee drinking beer, playing loud music, and repairing the ceiling. A neighbor, Matt Mazur, informed officers Kirchner, Briotta and Sergeant Borowski that the music is a consistent problem.
Eclipse’s entertainment license allows for “background dinner music (live), jazz and classical guitar.”
Gorham told us he has no ill will towards the Northampton police and that, at the violation hearing, he will tell the License Commission “exactly what happened.” He acknowledged that he should have been more careful.
“In hindsight, I would have been a lot more cautious. Or I might not have done it at all,” said Gorham.
© 2011 Northampton Media
Amanda Drane can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org