Police responded to a fight at Pomeroy’s Tavern in Selbyville that injured one security staff member early Saturday, Dec. 24, around 1:30 a.m.
The fight originated indoors between two small groups of people, said Lynn Pomeroy, whose family owns the tavern. A 26-year-old male security staff member was struck in the head with a chair and transported to Atlantic General Hospital due to a head laceration, which required stitches. He was treated and released later in the morning.
Another security staffer sprayed the entire area with pepper spray in an attempt to force everyone outside.
The initial officer’s report said approximately 100 people were present, but Pomeroy estimated that 75 to 80 people were present because the business only holds 121 people, minus that night’s staff and one closed lounge.
Pomeroy said the fight only featured three to five people per side, but the brawl seemed much larger when others tried to pull them apart. The first police officer arrived to find small groups of people fighting as they exited the tavern, said Chief Scott Collins of Selbyville Police Department. He immediately called for backup, so Delaware State Police, Millsboro PD, Ocean View PD, Bethany Beach PD and Fenwick Island PD assisted in breaking up the fray.
At this point, no one could provide additional information as to who struck the security guard, so suspects have been identified, Collins said. Selbyville PD is still trying to get information from witnesses.
Whether people were involved in the fight or just bystanders who were pepper sprayed, “we didn’t get a lot of cooperation from the people that were there that night,” Collins said.
The security factor
Another factor that night was the security team, which had been hired three weeks earlier. To improve safety, Pomeroy’s had hired professional private security staff. Late Friday night, Pomeroy said the guards wanted to shut down the establishment because five patrons were smoking inside. In Delaware, it is illegal to smoke indoors in public places, but Pomeroy said the security team would not comply with his preference to simply eject the smokers.
Instead, eight of the guards quit and immediately stopped working.
Pomeroy said they sat at the bar, but did not inform one last man that they had quit, so the lone guard attempted to disperse an argument that was beginning nearby. The fight lost control and the last security guard was struck.
“He would have been protected had his own team not quit 10 minutes before,” Pomeroy said.
Pomeroy said he ran by the other eight and told them that their colleague was single-handedly trying to control the fight, which is when several guards jumped into action.
Fights like this have affected Pomeroy’s before, which is why they hired private security. Fueled with “liquid courage,” people from different towns will start fighting, but Pomeroy said the bar tries to separate these people before the situation escalades. After being ejected from Selbyville, fights have continued down the road in other towns, but Collins said there is no indication this happened Dec. 24.
Pomeroy said one of the people who appeared to be fighting bragged to his wife that they were from a Rehoboth gang.
“We never have trouble like that before 1 [a.m.],” Pomeroy said.
Pomeroy’s Tavern will not host dances for the next few weekends until new doormen are hired. Pomeroy’s aims to hire another professional security team, possibly licensed and bonded. They have also offered to hire off-duty police officers. Pomeroy said the police have also been invited to give presentations to security staff on safety conduct.
Similar incidents in Selbyville had contributed to the town’s recently proposed law that would have restaurants stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. and close by midnight. The goal was to prevent further late-night violence and expensive additional police patrols. Existing restaurants could have had exception from the rules in a grandfather clause. However, Town Council decided to further examine the law after many questions and concerns arose at a public hearing Dec. 5.
“It’s incidents like this why we attempted to get this zoning amendment passed,” said Collins, noting that several establishments have had safety problems. “You’re not running what I would describe as a restaurant at that hour.”
Pomeroy expressed frustration with the limitations of the proposed law. He said his top priorities are patrons, safety and the town. Pomeroy’s has been owned and operated by the same family since 1924.
“We don’t want to endanger anybody, but we do want to make a legitimate business,” he said.
He said bartenders are all well trained, and the package store, restaurant and taproom all have appropriate licensure.
Patrons must pass a security point at the door, including ID check and bag search. When people cause trouble, the bar keeps a list of names and photographs of people banned from the business.
“We want it to be safe,” Pomeroy said, describing the security precautions.
Collins noted that Pomeroy’s has worked well with the town in addressing these issues. Pomeroy said he will work with the town to prosecute anyone who is caught in the future.
“We would be willing to do anything the town wanted us to do, short of shutting down,” he said. “More than anything we want to get along with the town.”