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Wheatfield bar loses its liquor license Action by state comes after federal drug raid

The State Liquor Authority on Wednesday suspended the liquor license of JT Wheatfield's, the Wheatfield nightclub that was raided by federal agents July 30.

Until further action is taken, no alcohol can be sold or consumed at the popular nightspot on Niagara Falls Boulevard at Ward Road.

The license was suspended because a continuing federal drug investigation has raised concerns that the bar "posed an imminent threat to the public," said Bill Crowley, spokesman for the authority.

"By suspending this license, the members of the State Liquor Authority sent a clear message that criminal behavior will not be tolerated in licensed establishments," said Trina Mead, chief executive officer of the authority.

In a series of July 30 raids, 22 people were arrested, including Joseph Tomasino, 45, of North Tonawanda, whose family owns and operates the business. He pleaded not guilty to a felony cocaine-trafficking charge.

On the morning of the raids, state park police at Allegany State Park arrested Tomasino, who was on a family camping trip. Officers said he had 1.7 grams of cocaine in his shirt pocket when they arrested him.

Tomasino, vice president and co-owner of JT Wheatfield's, is accused by the U.S. attorney's office of taking part in a cocaine-trafficking conspiracy headed by Keith Simmons of North Tonawanda.

The arrests followed a lengthy investigation by the Safe Streets Task Force, made up of agents from the FBI and several other police agencies.

Liquor Authority officials said they were concerned by a number of references to drug trafficking at JT Wheatfield's in court papers filed by federal prosecutors on the day of Tomasino's arrest.

Tomasino denies the allegations, and family members describe him as a hardworking man not involved in drugs.

The Tomasino family can ask for an expedited hearing to fight the license suspension, or it can ask a state judge to reinstate their liquor license, Crowley said.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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