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Attorney: Peking Tokyo Restaurant Did the Right Thing

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/3/2017 12:14:34 AM
Modified: 5/3/2017 2:02:30 PM

Lebanon — A lawyer for a Lebanon restaurant where a Hartland man told police he was drinking before a wrong-way crash on Interstate 89 last year that killed a Rhode Island woman said the restaurant had cut off the defendant earlier in the evening.

Mark Sisti, an attorney for one of the owners of Peking Tokyo, said in a telephone interview late last week that restaurant employees “acted in a most professional and proficient way in the course of the evening.”

Daniel Cowdrey, then 38, was at the restaurant in downtown Lebanon with at least three other individuals on May 25, 2016, and servers at some point denied him the sale of alcohol, Sisti said.

“They did everything they were trained to do with regard to serving an individual that appears intoxicated, and I can assure you he was cut off,” Sisti said. “No drinks were going to go his way, and they were told directly that he was not driving and would not be the driver that evening.”

Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo last week said a prohibited sales charge against Peking Tokyo had been dropped, but that she couldn’t elaborate further pending Cowdrey’s trial on negligent homicide and other charges in connection with the crash that killed Ellynn Koelsch, of Cranston, R.I., and injured her young son.

Reached on Tuesday, Saffo again said she couldn’t comment “due to ethical considerations.”

“When the Cowdrey matter is resolved, we can comment,” she said.

According to a New Hampshire State Police affidavit filed shortly after the crash, Cowdrey told Trooper Janell Smith that he “had a few beers with some friends” at Peking Tokyo and then headed home to Vermont.

The indictment in the since-dismissed charges against Peking Tokyo said the restaurant served Cowdrey two large scorpion bowl drinks, which authorities defined as “an alcoholic beverage made up of multiple liquors,” and that Peking Tokyo should “have known that Daniel Cowdrey would have become intoxicated after consuming the first scorpion bowl beverage.”

Sisti declined to discuss what alcohol was served, or who bought the drinks.

“Once (restaurant workers) were placed on notice of a problem, they cut it off immediately, hours before the accident, by the way,” Sisti said.

That apparent timeline, and the fact that Cowdrey also is charged with driving under the influence of “intoxicating liquor and/or marijuana” or a “combination of both,” may have played a role in the charge being dropped.

“Where Mr. Cowdrey received his high BAC is beyond our knowledge, and any other intoxicants that were found in his bloodstream had nothing to do with the restaurant,” said Sisti, who has law offices in Chichester and Portsmouth.

Although the Grafton County Attorney’s Office has dropped the charge against the restaurant, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission’s Division of Enforcement and Licensing still has an open investigation into whether any “prohibited sale” took place that night, Lt. Valerie Goodno said.

“We are going to be having a discussion on whether we will move forward on any administrative action,” Goodno said, noting that decision came after receiving information that prosecutors had dropped the criminal charge against the restaurant.

The restaurant has two trade names registered with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office. The first is “Peking Tokyo of Lebanon,” which is owned by C&R Rock Inc. The second is “Peking Tokyo Restaurant,” which is owned by PT Red Tree Inc.

PT Red Tree registered Peking Tokyo Restaurant as a trade name on April 11, 2016, and the filing was accompanied by an April 28 letter from C&R Rock Inc., which said it “has no objection to the registration of Peking Tokyo Restaurant by PT Red Tree Inc.”

Sisti represents C&R Rock. An attorney for PT Red Tree, Joseph Garrison, last week said his client had no comment for the time being.

Sisti said the restaurant was pleased to be exonerated from criminal liability in the case.

“They are very relieved, and they are open for business,” Sisti said. “They have been a responsible restaurant and always will be.”

Peking Tokyo has had an alcohol-related violation in the past, said Goodno, the liquor enforcement lieutenant.

The restaurant faced two counts of service to a minor in 2012, she said, and had its license suspended for two days.

John P. Gregg contributed to this report. Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.




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