Bar not charged in drinking death

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Sabre's Comedy Den has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the death of a 24-year-old man who died of alcohol poisoning in October.

Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae said police have not been able to establish probable cause to charge the bar for overserving alcohol to Joe Osborne.

Osborne, 24, of Steamboat Springs, was found dead Oct. 23 at the home of an acquaintance, who tried to wake him but could not. Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg ruled that Osborne died of heart failure because of acute alcohol toxicity. His blood-alcohol content was 0.302. In Colorado, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 is considered driving under the influence of alcohol.

That night, Osborne had been drinking at Sabre's, 703 Lincoln Ave., and acquaintances offered him a place to spend the night because of his level of intoxication.

The police investigation was unable to account for more than a half-hour of Osborne's night, when he left Sabre's and then later returned, Rae said. That unaccounted time span was part of the reason the police decided not to press charges.

A state liquor license investigator came to Steamboat Springs last week to review the case and also determined there was not a probable cause for any criminal charges, Rae said. The state investigator reviewed the police's findings and reinterviewed some witnesses.

Sabre's owner Dale Walter said the death was a tragedy but that the bar was not at fault. He hoped others would learn from the death.

"It is a horrible tragedy. I think something has to be done. I don't know what, maybe better education about alcohol," he said. "You just can't do the things (Osborne) did and survive."

In November, Walter said Osborne was at his bar between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. the night before he died, but left the bar twice for extended periods. Osborne's credit card receipts show he spent $34 on drinks at Sabre's, including at least two drinks he bought for friends.

He said Osborne had a mixed drink, two beers and two shots throughout several hours at Sabre's. Walter said that Osborne was a regular customer and that he did not appear to be intoxicated until he left the bar at midnight and returned again at about 12:30 a.m. He did not drink again at Sabre's.

Osborne left Sabre's with men he had been playing pool with that night and went by taxi to their residence in the 500 block of Harm's Court. The group arrived at the residence at about 2 a.m. and put Osborne in a bed in the back bedroom.

The next morning, at about 11:30 a.m., the two men who lived in the residence went into the bedroom to check on Osborne. Finding Osborne unconscious and not breathing, the men called police. Emergency personnel who responded pronounced him dead.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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