Center City bar shut down by L&I Officials cited several violations at Doc Watson's Pub, including underage drinkers locked on the 4th floor. The owner was charged.

Posted: March 22, 2005

A popular Center City bar was shut down and its owner arrested last weekend after investigators found about 200 people - about half of them underage drinkers - locked in a fourth-floor apartment.

Philadelphia police officers responding to a complaint about loud music arrived at Doc Watson's Pub, 216 S. 11th St., at 12:18 a.m. Saturday. They stopped two people, who turned out to be younger than 21, leaving from the bar's side door, said Cpl. Jim Pauley, a police spokesman. The officers also contacted the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections and state police liquor-enforcement officers.

Then, according to Pauley, the following occurred inside the bar:

Doc Watson's owner Daniel Flynn, 36, told patrons younger than 21 to go to the building's third floor. About 200 people complied. Flynn also told a bar employee to stay on the second floor and make sure no one tried to get downstairs.

A short time later, Flynn ordered the group of patrons to climb to the building's fourth floor - a one-bedroom apartment where he told police he lives. Flynn then closed and padlocked the door.

When police asked Flynn whether anyone was on the fourth floor, he said that he did not know and that he had no key to the lock. Officers then climbed the fire escape, looked in a fourth-floor window, and saw people packed inside "like sardines," Pauley said.

Flynn unlocked the door, and about 100 people were arrested and charged with underage drinking. A representative from the Fire Marshal's Office said the locked door created "the potential for catastrophe." Flynn was arrested and charged with hindering apprehension, causing or risking a catastrophe, recklessly endangering another person, and obstructing the administration of the law. He was released on his own recognizance.

L&I officials ordered the bar shut down for fire-code violations and unsafe crowding, said Deputy Commissioner Dominic Verdi, who was on the scene.

In addition to the patrons crammed on the upper floors, at least two fire exits were locked, the fire-alarm system was not working properly, and the owner had no certification for his sprinkler system, Verdi said.

"It would have been a real bad scene if this place had ignited," Verdi said. "Those kids would be dead."

The bar will be closed until the violations are corrected, which Verdi estimated would take at least two weeks to a month, though the owner has the right to challenge the agency's findings in court.

Flynn could not be reached for comment yesterday, and no one answered the telephone at the bar. Doc Watson's opened in 1971 and offers "three stories of entertainment," according to its Web site, www.docwatsons.net. It hosts weekly trivia games and live music performances.

Contact staff writer Natalie Pompilio at 215-854-2813 or npompilio@phillynews.com.

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