ABC Commission rejects deal for Chapel Hill bar linked to fatal I-85 crash
Posted October 14, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission on Wednesday rejected a proposed penalty for one of two Chapel Hill bars accused of serving a 20-year-old who later was involved in a wrong-way collision on Interstate 85 that killed three people.
Under the deal proposed by ABC staff, La Residence's alcohol permits would have been suspended for 50 days unless the bar paid a $5,000 fine. Commission Chairman Jim Gardner said he wants a stiffer penalty, which possibly could include both a fine and a suspension, for the bar's actions.
Authorities said Chandler Michael Kania used a fake ID to drink at La Residence and He's Not Here in the early hours of July 19. A short time later, they said, he was driving north in the southbound lanes near the split of I-85 and Interstate 40 in Orange County when his Jeep Wrangler collided with a Suzuki driven by Felecia Harris.
Harris, 49, of Charlotte, her friend Darlene McGee, 46, of Charlotte, and Harris' granddaughter Jahnice Beard, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were killed in the fiery wreck. Harris' daughter, Jahnia King, 9, was seriously injured.
Toxicology tests show that Kania had a blood-alcohol content of 0.17, which is more than twice the level at which a driver is considered impaired under North Carolina law. Because Kania is underage, however, any alcohol in his system would have been illegal.
"It's clear that the commission is taking a strong position and wants to be sure that people are mindful of the laws," ABC Commission spokeswoman Agnes Stevens said.
Syd Alexander, a lawyer for La Residence, said he was surprised the commission didn't approve the fine, noting that he was under the impression from agency staff that the penalty was "very standard and routine."
"I think this case is being treated differently than a routine case would be," Alexander said. "There’s no question that, because of the terrible tragedy, this is an extremely high-profile situation.
"There is a lot of public pressure on everybody, and I think that’s part of certainly what is going on," he continued.
La Residence and ABC staff can now negotiate a new deal, or the bar can appeal the violations the agency filed against it to an administrative law judge.
He's Not Here is still negotiating with ABC staff over the violations it faces in the case.
Kania is charged with three counts each of second-degree murder and felony death by motor vehicle and one count each of felony serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving left of center, obtaining alcohol by a minor and underage consumption of alcohol as a minor. A grand jury also indicted him on an aggravating factor linked to a fight he had with friends who tried to stop him from driving after drinking that night.
He is under house arrest in Asheboro awaiting trial.