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On Thursday, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against a Glenwood Springs bar in Garfield District Court by the parents of a 16-year-old Carbondale girl who died in a road accident on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon last spring.
The parents of Jennifer Nevarez said that the bartender of the Bayou Cajun Restaurant and bar served the underage driver alcohol prior to the crash. 18-year-old Brianda Zavala was driving the car; Nevarez was the passenger with another individual, 24-year-old Albino Ortiz-Monge. They all died in the accident that happened on 14th of April at about 5:30 a.m., three and a half hours after the bar’s 2 a.m. closing. The crash happened when the car crossed the center line in a construction zone and collided head-on with a semi-truck.
All three auto accident victims had a BAC level above the legal limit for driving when the crash happened. According to the patrol’s follow-up report, Zavala’s BAC level was 0.241%. Witnesses said the 3 may have continued drinking after leaving the bar.
In the lawsuit filed by Nevarez’s parents, they said that Pedro and Elda Nevarez, Zavala’s consumption of alcohol at the bar “caused, or was a substantial cause, of her being intoxicated in the morning hours — when the fatal incident occurred”.
26-year-old Denisse Arreola, who works as a bartender at the bar and was present at the bar that night was recently convicted in Garfield County Court on a misdemeanor charge for providing alcohol to an underage individual in relation to the incident. On 12th of September, Arreola pleaded no contest to the charge and according to a description of the plea in the court file; a “no contest” plea is not an admission of guilt. She said that she didn’t serve the underage individuals that night.
The case is still under investigation by the Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division for providing alcohol to Zavala and Nevarez illegally who were underage. Daria Serna, Colorado Department of Revenue/Liquor Enforcement spokeswoman said in an e-mail, “This is where the business explains to the state why action should not be taken against their liquor license. The next step will be the pre-hearing conference, but we are not there yet”.
Steve Behem, the owner of the bar didn’t comment on the case. He said that his Colorado attorney had not yet had a chance to review it and has advised him not to comment. He has decided to sell the restaurant and bar business. He said, “That’s a long time to be in this industry, and I can’t wait for the next chapter to begin”. On 18th of October, they will be having the last and 29th anniversary party of the bar.
Last year, the Bayou was reprimanded by liquor authorities for providing alcohol to underage individuals in June 2011 and November 2011. After that hearing, the liquor license of the bar was suspended for five years. The bar was also fined $939.
The Nevarez lawsuit requests a jury trial to determine damages.