Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs police officials say evidence in the investigation of Sgt. 1st Class Richard Lopez's death indicates The Tap House Sports Grill acted appropriately in trying to defuse the argument that ultimately led to a deadly physical altercation later that night.
Lopez died Jan. 5 of severe brain and head trauma in a Denver hospital. Police say he was injured as a result of a fight that took place just after midnight Jan. 2 near Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat Springs. Two suspects have been identified and interviewed, but no arrests have been made.
On Friday, Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae said The Tap House Sports Grill in downtown Steamboat took the right steps when a small group of patrons began arguing about jukebox song selections.
Tap House co-owner Melissa Baker has said that doormen at the restaurant and bar intervened when the disagreement began to escalate and asked both groups to leave through separate exits. Baker said the patrons agreed to leave the restaurant and that no physical altercation took place inside the Tap House.
"Though the parties involved met inside the Tap House, the altercation occurred over a block away at the corner of Seventh and Lincoln, where our staff was unaware of the situation," Baker said in an e-mail to the Pilot & Today.
"The situation that arose inside our establishment was merely two groups of men arguing over many irrelevant topics and was dispersed quickly," she said. "These groups of men tried to take their argument outside, where our employees stopped them before they were able to get into a physical altercation.
"Our staff then appropriately advised each party to leave out separate exits, which they willingly did. They left us no sign that any future confrontations would arise."
Although Rae would not discuss details of the investigation, he confirmed much of Baker's account.
"We don't have any information that the Tap House did anything wrong," Rae said. "We don't have any information that anyone was over-served.
"They intervened appropriately and prevented a fight from happening in their establishment. They separated the parties."
Rae said the Tap House was not required to report the incident to police because there was no physical altercation inside the restaurant's premises.
"They have historically done a good job in running an orderly establishment based on our alcohol compliance checks and walk-throughs," he said.
Baker and fellow Tap House co-owner Gary Saxe expressed remorse for the death of Lopez, a decorated soldier in the Army.
"We at the Tap House are saddened by the tragic death of Sgt. Lopez, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends," Baker and Saxe wrote in a statement.
The headline on the Jan. 3 article about the incident incorrectly stated that the fight happened inside the bar. On Friday, Rae confirmed there was no physical altercation inside The Tap House. He also said the fight between the two groups didn't occur outside the front entrance of the Tap House, as claimed last week by defense attorney Charles Feldmann, who is representing the two suspects in Lopez's death.