Local News

ABC Commission rejects deal for Chapel Hill bar linked to fatal I-85 crash

Posted October 14, 2015

— 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.


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  • Janet Scott Oct 14, 2015
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    Colin, you need to read. This is not about guns. And good for the commission...put them out of business.

  • Roy Hinkley Oct 14, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    its not just the ID at issue. What about the bar serving an intoxicated person?

  • Roger Chance Oct 14, 2015
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    As a teacher, I saw plenty of fake ID's that I would never have ID'd AS such. 20 years ago a store in a Durham mall sold "novelty" ID's. I saw one of my 17 year olds in the ABC store. Next day he showed me a "picture perfect" Ohio driver's license. How many UNC kids do you think have them. Every bar that served them would be no where near punished to this extent. You should not hold these bars any more guilty. HE is the one who caused the deaths. 20 or 21, how many of each can you pick out of a crowd?

  • mykesmovies Oct 14, 2015

    View quoted thread

    I worked at a bar for years and it is "in fact" the bars responsibility to spot and take fake ID's. Both bars a at fault to some degree and probably will be shut down.

  • Norman Lewis Oct 14, 2015
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    If actually convicted on all charges, he is looking probably at 40+ years in prison. Likely though, the charges are designed to intimidate him into taking a plea (though he is guilty based on the evidence provided), but he is still looking at a LONG time in prison.

  • Ryan Walsh Oct 14, 2015
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    Step right up kids, let's play the Ba BaBlame game!

  • Amy Singleton Oct 14, 2015
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    Wow. Look at the "immunity for all corporations for any act, lawful or not" crowd.

    Yes, it is illegal for a bar to knowingly serve an over intoxicated person or underage person, fake ID or not. Yes, it is illegal for a bar to let an obviously intoxicated person to get behind the wheel. These are laws that are already on the books and it is the bar owners/operators responsibility to know them. In VA you cannot even serve from behind a bar until a class and test are taken declaring you know their laws. Then your name goes on the public "Managers Board" as being authorized to serve. It comes with responsibility and personal liability. Something too few businesses want anything to do with anymore.

    The drunk kid is not the only one who broke a law on the books. Don't like it? Get the laws changed. Good luck with your campaign to allow kids to use fake ID's without interference and for bars to let knowingly drunk people drink more and then drive.

  • Colin Burch III Oct 14, 2015
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    Interesting - licensed driver, registered vehicle, multiple laws still broken and deaths resulted. So why is licensing gun owners and registering their guns suppose to stop crime? Since some are not able to behave correctly we obviously need to ramp up the government control. Bars and restaurants should have to use breath analyzers on everyone who wants to be served alcohol. Also on anyone who wants to leave the establishment. You can not leave unless you pass the the test or are signed out by someone who passed the test and takes responsibility. Guess we need to do this at the grocery store and convenience stores also. But since people can drink at home guess we need to require cars to have a breathalyzer to prevent intoxicated people from starting cars. 10,000 or so people die each year from alcohol related vehicle 'accidents'. Did I mentioned that alcohol products are registered and sellers are licensed. We need one strike, no license. Two strikes, five years.

  • Reggie Berryman Oct 14, 2015
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    The bar should be able to sue Chandler Michael Kania for fraud!

  • Roger Way Oct 14, 2015
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    Dram Shop Rule - A statute (Dram Shop Act) or case law in 38 states which makes a business which sells alcoholic drinks or a host who serves liquor to a drinker who is obviously intoxicated or close to it, strictly liable to anyone injured by the drunken patron or guest. This man was nearly halfway to a blood-alcohol content of .40 that generally results in comatose or severe alcohol poisoning. That was their grand mistake.

    In most states, a licensee is only held liable for selling to a minor without asking for any ID. If ID is asked for, and a fake ID indicating the minor is actually 21 is shown, then in almost all cases, no charges will be filed from either the police or from the alcohol control board. The one caveat is that the ID must appear to be reasonably realistic: if it says the minor is 100 years old, or is of a different sex or completely different appearance, then the bar or club will likely be held liable.