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Chapel Hill bar linked to fatal I-85 crash reaches new deal on liquor permits

Posted November 11, 2015

La Residence bar in Chapel Hill
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— 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 has negotiated a new penalty with state regulators.

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.

La Residence initially agreed to pay a $5,000 fine to avoid a 50-day suspension of its alcohol permits, but members of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission rejected that deal last month, saying they wanted to send a message about underage drinking.

Under the new proposal, La Residence's alcohol permits would be suspended for 50 days, starting Dec. 18, but the final 36 days of the penalty would be lifted if the bar pays a $5,000 fine by Dec. 11.

If the fine is paid on time, the 14-day suspension would end on midnight Dec. 31, meaning La Residence could start serving alcohol to ring in the new year. Also, the suspension period would fall during winter break for area college students.

The ABC Commission still has to sign off on the deal during its meeting next Wednesday.

He's Not Here couldn't reach a deal with ABC staff over the violations it faces in the case, and it has appealed to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

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.

4 Comments

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  • Kristin Byrne Nov 11, 2015
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    You saying you drank there underage doesn't help their cause. It proves they have a history of serving underage. I know plenty of people who drank there, too, and it was always a thing of them turning a blind eye. Heck, I drank at plenty of places underage, too. Not proud of it and not saying it was right, but in NC, an establishment is responsible if it can be proven that they served someone underage, regardless of ID or not, or if they served an intoxicated person. I may have done some not so smart things, but I never drove after drinking while I was underage. Turning a blind eye will come back to haunt you. Happens to plenty of places.

  • Wayne Douglas III Nov 11, 2015
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    While I am not necessarily proud of this, but in my younger days, I drove my Dad's truck, while completely messed up. I did this more than once. The point is, when I knew that I was really drunk/stoned, I made it more of a point, to not give the police any reason to look twice at me. Can I defiantly say that there was no possible way for me to drive the wrong way on an interstate? Not at all. We had I-10, running directly through my home town. What I am saying, is that I never got pulled, never had any wreck and never killed anyone. Does it make it right? Not at all. Should this kid go to prison? Absolutely.

  • Jim Frei Nov 11, 2015
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    I drank at He's Not Here when I was in high school both before and after I turned 18 yo. You get one yahoo that messes it up for everyone else. Can the ABC Commission prove Kania got drunk at He's Not Here or that the bartenders knew he was underage?

  • Lisa Lisa Nov 11, 2015
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    What is the purpose of a penalty if you get to negotiate it? And we wonder what's wrong with our society. Next, they will be making a deal with the actual offender. And then they will be making a deal with the numerous of offenders who get charged with DWI everyday in just Wake County alone. I bet you had no idea.