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Cattleman’s Steak and Ale closed following liquor license dispute

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MORRISTOWN – Cattleman’s Steak and Ale closed March 22 following the state Liquor Authority revoking the restaurant’s liquor license.

The restaurant was also broken into after it was closed with unidentified thieves wreaking several thousand dollars in damage.

When John G. Hagopian took over management of the popular, down-town Morristown restaurant from Ian O’Brian in September, he had plans to create a river-orientated restaurant and bar.

But on March 22 the Liquor Authority, responding to a tip, found that Mr. Hagopian was illegally using a liquor license registered under Mr. O’Brian’s name.

“When we issue a license it’s for a specific person or location,” William S. Crowley, a spokesman for the Liquor Authority, said. “It can’t be transferred to another person. They have to submit a new application.”

“There is an open investigation,” Mr. Crowley said.

Mr. Hagopian said he was in the process of filing an application for his own license.

He and Mr. O’Brian “had an operating agreement that was drawn up. I was managing until I got approved by the Liquor Authority,” Mr. Hagopian said. “Ian was the owner. I was operating it as the manager.”

Mr. Hagopian said he continued operating the restaurant under Mr. O’Brian’s Cattleman’s Steak and Ale LLC in order to receive shipments of alcohol but formed his own company, JGH Enterprises LLC, to receive food shipments.

“I did form my company because people didn’t want to deliver to me unless it was under my name,” Mr. Hagopian said.

“We were in the process of doing my application [for a liquor license],” Mr. Hagopian said, “But we stopped the process because of the interruption [from the Liquor Authority].”

Mr. Crowley said he couldn’t comment on whether or not Mr. Hagopian had been in the process of filing his own liquor license application.

Mr. Hagopian said, when the Liquor Authority required Mr. Hagopian to surrender the improperly used license, he decided to close the restaurant.

“It was going to take another month and a half to get the paperwork approved. We decided to just cut our losses,” he said.

But Cattleman’s hasn’t been empty since it closed in March.

Over the weekend of March 30 the restaurant was broken into, Mr. Hagopian said.

“I had gone away for the weekend,” he said. “On April 2nd, a Tuesday… I opened the door and I looked in and the bar chairs were toppled over, there was broken glass, I looked up, they stole my liquor, my surveillance system and ransacked the kitchen.”

Whoever broke in also stole a $5,000 projector, Mr. Hagopian said, estimating the total damage at close to $9,000.

Mr. Hagopian said the State Police are still investigating the break in.

“It’s hard being in this type of business because there’s so many people in and out of here and so many people touch things,” he said. “They gained entrance to the building on the back alley where we keep the garbage.”

A spokesman for the State Police, Mr. Ward, said the investigation is still pending with “no leads.”

Mr. Hagopian spent Friday “doing a final clean up.” He said he plans on turning in his key to the building next week. “This place has got an omen to it,” he said.

Mahlon Clements, the building’s owner, said he is putting the building up for sale or lease and it will be available again on May 1. Mr. Hagopian was leasing the building.

Mr. Hagopian said he is “moving back to Binghamton. I’m going back to construction management with my father’s business.”

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