Updated – 7:10 p.m. – The Hooters restaurant on Rockville Pike will surrender its liquor license and close rather than fight for the right to stay in business at a hearing in front of the Montgomery County Board of License Commissioners next week.
The alcohol board was scheduled to hold a hearing Aug. 4 on whether to suspend or revoke the restaurant’s alcohol license in the wake of a deadly December crash nearby that resulted in the death of Montgomery County police officer Noah Leotta. The hearing will not take place because Hooters is giving up its alcohol license willingly, according to the county.
Luis Gustavo Reluzco, the Olney man who pleaded guilty in May to vehicular manslaughter, admitted to drinking extensively at the Hooters before driving away from the restaurant and striking Leotta as the officer conducted a traffic stop on Rockville Pike. According to court documents in the case, Reluzco drank whiskey and beer for more than four hours before the collision.
An attorney representing Hooters signed a settlement agreement sent to the Montgomery County attorney’s office that says the restaurant will surrender its alcohol license and permanently close its doors Nov. 1. The agreement states that prior to Nov. 1 Hooters will inform employees about the planned closure and give them an opportunity to find other employment.
“The horrific events of December 3, 2015 which led to Officer Leotta’s tragic death will never [emphasis theirs] be forgotten,” attorney Edward Gillis wrote. “Hooters is deeply saddened by the loss of Officer Leotta, and will continue to work diligently to prevent such a loss in the future.”
The Washington Post first reported Hooters planned to close.
Leotta died a week after he was struck from injuries sustained in the collision. Reluzco, whose alcohol level was found to be nearly three times the legal limit at the time of the crash, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 9. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
After Leotta’s death, his family, local police leaders and anti-drunken driving advocates pushed for changes in state law that require more drivers who fail breath-alcohol tests to install and use an ignition interlock system—which requires a driver to blow into a breathalyzer before starting a vehicle. Gov. Larry Hogan signed Noah’s Law, in May.
Richard Leotta, Noah’s father, said Monday night in an interview with Bethesda Beat he hopes the closure sends a message.
“By Hooters giving up their liquor license and closing their doors, that is a deterrent to other businesses,” Leotta said. “It sends a signal to other businesses if you comply and follow the rules, you can serve alcohol. But if you don’t, there’s a price to pay.”