Pub owner defends decision to kick out Harvard student, who later drowned

Jay Luther, owner of Ri Ra Irish Pub, and group business director James Thompson issued a statement today about the recent events surrounding the disappearance and eventual death of Nathan Bihlmaier, who was asked to leave their establishment around 11:30 p.m. Saturday and was never seen alive again.

As has now been heavily reported, Bihlmaier never reconnected with his friends, two fellow Harvard Business School students, and was found two days later in Casco Bay.

Bihlmaier was asked to leave by pub staff because he was visibly intoxicated, police officials have said, and cutting off patrons who have had too much to drink is something bars are legally bound to do in order to keep their liquor licenses.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck (BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett)

Nonetheless, Ri Ra has come under the spotlight for its role in that night’s tragedy.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said after Tuesday’s press conference that, while there’s no legal obligation to do so, it would be good if waterfront bar owners would ensure drunken patrons have a cab ride, sober friends or some other way to keep them from falling into the harbor just a few feet away.

Here’s the joint statement by Luther and Thompson, in its entirety:

First, I’d like you to know that the entire Ri Rá staff is terribly saddened by this event, and all of us extend our condolences to the family and friends of Nathan Bihlmaier. This is a sad time for all.

Since we became aware of this incident, the Ri Rá management team has worked closely with the Portland Police Department. Among other things, we’ve provided them with all of security videos and records from Saturday night. It is our hope that this will help them piece together some of the events leading up to this untimely and tragic death.

After a careful review, it is important to note that we fully support our employees and the manner in which they handled the situation. Their actions were in full compliance with the law and with our own internal policies and practices.

While this is an ongoing investigation, we also recognize it as a time for mourning and reflection. Incidents like this are unsettling for the entire community. Please know that the Ri Rá staff extends our deepest sympathies.

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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.