Restaurateur Mike McConnell Gives His Version of DUI: He Refused Shakedown

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Made "poor choices" McConnell says
Seattle restaurateur and Caffe Vita coffee-chain owner Mike McConnell now faces a May trial date after pleading not guilty to DUI, hit and run, and assault involving that bumper-to-bumper car accident on Broadway, although he's sure to lose his license for six months after refusing a breath alcohol test. The other driver told police McConnell tried to shake him down for $1,500 to forget the incident, then punched him in the chest when he refused.

It wasn't exactly a headline shaker but the March 31 crash made the blogs, including SW's Voracious, which couldn't reach McConnell, 42, for his version. The owner of Via Tribunali and co-sponsor of a campaign fundraiser last fall for the mayor and city attorney has been mum since, but wanted to talk to me this week. I've known him since he was a teen and he's a friend of my son Erin. "Sounds like you screwed up," I told him. Here's what he, and his attorney, told me:

McConnell hit the other, older car stopped for a light around 6 p.m., but there was zero damage to both cars. The attorney (McConnell's corporate attorney, who'd dined with McConnell and was following behind him enroute to one of their businesses), stopped and became a witness as well. The other driver, on his way to work at a pizza parlor, smelled the "couple of beers" McConnell says he'd just drank and told McConnell - who was driving a newer Mercedes - he'd forget the incident for $1,500. He offered to go to a cash machine with McConnell and the attorney at that moment. McConnell refused. He did not punch or assault the other driver, he says. He legally parked his car at the scene and walked away - a mistake, he admits. Police tracked the car which is registered to his coffee business, where they learned McConnell was at one of his eateries, and arrested him. At the East Precinct, he refused a Datamaster breath test, was booked, and later bailed out.

His version is contrary to the other driver's. A Municipal Court judge will decide which is the more accurate. A pre-trial hearing is set for May 3.

McConnell says he regrets what happened, but says he was disappointed to read some of the anonymous blog comments about him. One reporter also called the state liquor board and ask what might happen to McConnell's commercial liquor licenses if he's convicted of DUI. (A spokesperson indicated revocation was possible).

"I've got 20 licenses for my places," McConnell says, and losing them could affect the jobs of some of his 250 employees. "I made some poor choices," he says, "but I don't think I deserved to get crucified for that."

 
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