|TRENTON – The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control today announced a settlement with the owners of Spicy Cantina & Mexican Grill in Seaside Heights in connection with a June 10 incident involving the television show “The Jersey Shore” and cast member Deena Cortese, who was served alcohol at the establishment while visibly intoxicated.
As part of the settlement, Spicy will be fined $15,000 and Cortese, a New Egypt native, will be banned from the restaurant for two years as part of a special condition on the alcohol license, owned by AFW 500 LLC. Also, Spicy faces a 10-day suspension of their license should they violate the ABC’s laws in the next two years.
“This settlement is a cautionary tale for licensees who might think ignoring the law for the sake of airtime is good for business,” said Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Michael Halfacre. “By turning a blind eye to the mayhem that can be associated with reality television, you are risking your livelihood. That is, without a doubt, bad for business.”
On the afternoon of June 10, Cortese, 25, was arrested by Seaside Heights Police for disorderly conduct. According to the police, Cortese was observed running out of Spicy and into the street at the corner of Ocean Terrace and Sumner Avenue. She began dancing in the intersection and appeared to be intoxicated after losing her balance several times. Cortese then proceeded south on Ocean Terrace and grabbed onto the trunk of a car and continued to dance. Seaside Heights Police said her behavior was seriously restricting the flow of the traffic and then placed her under arrest. Following her arrest, she told police that she had been drinking through the course of the day.
Statements taken by ABC Investigators reveal that Cortese, and an entourage that included an MTV film crew, were at Spicy for approximately 90 minutes that day. During that time, Cortese was observed to be walking on the bar, falling on the ground and standing on a red bench at a table of random guests. At one point, Cortese left the premises with an alcoholic beverage, walked onto the boardwalk and returned to the bar a short time later.
“ABC licensees are strictly liable for any violations of the law at their premises and have a responsibility to maintain control of their establishment. In this case, the management at Spicy Cantina and Mexican Grill were not in control,” Halfacre said.
In addition to pleading to the intoxication charges, Spicy also admitted to serving Cortese drinks that she did not order, which is illegal. Four staff members from Spicy submitted a letter to the ABC dated June 10 explaining that Cortese was served one alcoholic drink, a vodka and club soda, then was deemed to be intoxicated by the bar management. According to the letter, after cutting Cortese off, “she was served several shots of water, which she thought contained alcohol. She was also served non-alcoholic drink mix with fruit garnish. She drank multiple glasses without realizing that she was not drinking alcohol.”