October 25, 2018

Hangover Pub to resume serving alcohol months after reopening after lengthy state, local investigation

Photo/Grant Welker
The Hangover Pub is set to resume alohol sales after a prior owner's legal issues forced it to close this spring.

The Hangover Pub, a popular gastropub, will resume serving alcohol on Friday, six months to the date after the Worcester restaurant was awarded a new license from the city after a former owner became mixed up in Kevin Perry's drug money laundering scandal.

On Facebook, the Green Street establishment said on Tuesday alcohol sales can resume at 4 p.m. on Friday. To prepare, Hangover Pub said it would be closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The restaurant did not return messages seeking comment.

According to documents and state officials, the company was approved by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission for a new liquor license on Oct. 1. Michael Arrastia, formerly the executive chef of the restaurant group, is listed as the sole business owner on documents.

The restaurant's new licenses were awarded on the city level on April 26, but the company still needed ABCC approval. That proved much more difficult to obtain.

According to documents from the state ABCC, the past six months have included a lengthy investigation into the restaurant actually resulting in a recommendation to deny the company's request for a new license.

In late March, both Hangover Pub and sister restaurant and ramen bar Broth posted to social media that both would be closing due to unforeseen circumstances.

Hangover Pub reopened in July, while Broth reopened in June, but without liquor licenses. Both have advertised a bring-your-own-booze status since their reopening.

Christopher Slavinskas, who was listed on the business license of The Hangover Pub and Broth, has been connected to an investigation of another Worcester restaurant, The Usual on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, whose owner, Kevin Perry, will spend 14 years in prison for a litany of offenses, most notably laundering the proceeds of drug sales through his properties, including The Usual and Blackstone Tap in Worcester.

Slavinskas, 32, is alleged to have concealed $330,000 in drug money from investigators looking into Perry, his wife and her business partner, and keeping $130,000 for himself, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston.

He pleaded guilty in March to a charge of making a false statement to federal investigators. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 13.

Slavinskas was listed as the Hangover Pub's sole manager in the March 2016 application approved by the city's License Commission and ABCC, but that was before previously listed Hangover owners failed to pass a Worcester Police Department background check on a December 2015 application.

That list of owners included Joseph Herman, who is being charged along with Perry's wife in using drug proceeds to reopen The Usual as The Chameleon after Perry was incarcerated.

Also included on the list is Jay Grey, the primary financier of the Hangover Pub on that 2015 application.

Slavinskas was the only one approved by local police for the license, despite having just a 15-percent stake in the company, according to details on the previous attempted application. Slavinskas was charged in February 2018 and pleaded guilty in March.

According to the investigator's report, news articles quoting Grey -- who isn't listed on the business license and failed to pass a background check -- indicated Grey had an ownership or managerial role in the business.

Grey told the website MassLive that Slavinskas hadn't been closely involved in the restaurant for some time and that he was being removed from the license.

Just two days before Slavinskas pleaded guilty in March, Grey and Arrastia submitted paperwork to the city attempting to obtain a new license for the business with Grey as a majority owner at 51 percent and Arrastia at 49 percent.

In June, investigators contacted the company's lawyer, Henry Simonelli, who provided a statement from Grey indicating he responded to the media in his capacity as a publicity agent for the company.

However, Slavinskas in late March himself told police Grey and Arrastia were actively managing the restaurant.

In August, investigators paid a visit to the restaurant, where they met Arrastia, who attempted to clear up the complicated business structure.

According to the report, Arrastia named Grey as the original lender of the business, thus the majority ownership in the previously attempted license application.

Instead of being an owner, Arrastia and Grey agreed to a loan structure to have Grey as the lender and Arrastia as the sole licensee.

However, Arrastia was unable to provide details of the terms of the agreement.

During that conversation, an employee wearing a manager badge approached, but only Arrastia was listed on the license as the owner and manager. That manager, according to a Worcester police officer on site with the investigators, was previously denied in an application to be a manager.

Later, investigators met with Grey at the restaurant, who said he worked at the bar providing financial support, reviewing bills, answering questions and concerns on behalf of the business.

According to the report, Grey said he worked at Harr Motor Group in Worcester, where he made $150,000 per year. However, Grey hadn't worked at the dealership since the restaurant first opened in 2016, the report said.

According to investigators, Grey said he left his well-paying job with the hopes he would one day be able to be an owner in the company. According to the report, Grey said he had contributed more than $80,000 to the Hangover Pub.

With evidence showing Grey continues to be a majority shareholder despite him failing a background check from city investigators and Slavinskas calling himself a straw manager for Grey, investigators recommended the denial of the license.

However, the ABCC on Oct. 1 approved the application after holding an informational hearing in which the commission took additional evidence.

Attorney Simonelli told the Worcester License Commission on April 26 that Gray is just the lender and seller of assets to the current business entity registered to Arrastia.

At the meeting, License Commission Chairman Anthony Salvidio warned the restaurant would be back before the commission if any word of Grey being involved in the business gets out.

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