State Bridge Lodge’s liquor license on hold |

State Bridge Lodge’s liquor license on hold

Veronica Whitney

A public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 20 before the Eagle County commissioners.

John Ambrose, 23, of Vail, was killed instantly when his car swerved off Highway 131 and crashed. Authorities said Ambrose had been drinking with friends at State Bridge Lodge before the accident happened early June 3.

“We’re investigating because the blood alcohol level was so high,” said Earlene Roach, Eagle County liquor inspector.

The level of alcohol in Ambrose’s blood measured 0.320 percent – more than three times the 0.10 legal limit in Colorado.

In its report to the county commissioners, Roach says she’s concerned about the possibility the State Bridge Lodge may have served alcohol to Ambrose when he was already drunk.

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“In order for his BAC (blood alcohol content) to be that high, Ambrose would have had to consume a large amount of alcohol,” Roach said. “It’s against the law to serve alcohol to someone who is intoxicated.”

Michael and Bobbi Parks of the State Bridge Lodge Corporation are asking for a renewal of their liquor license. It was first issued on August 1997.

Michael Parks said they had always renewed the lodge’s license without a problem.

Establishments that sell alcohol have to renew their liquor license every year. The Eagle County Clerk and Recorder’s Office issues 110 liquor licenses a year.

Before recommending a renewal of a liquor license, Roach said she does a simple investigation to see if there had been any complaints of disturbance to the Eagle County Sheriffs Office.

If there is a death caused by alcohol in the middle of a license’s term, the county conducts a “show-cause hearing” in which owners of the establishment must prove over-serving was not an issue, Roach said.

“Those cases sometimes get dramatic; they turn out like a court hearing,” Roach said. “We usually have to hire prosecution attorneys.”

During the summer, State Bridge Lodge is a big gathering for young people who like to raft or kayak on the Colorado River. It is also a popular concert venue, with shows every weekend.

Ambrose was last seen at State Bridge late on June 2. Police reports say he was driving south on Highway 131 at as much as twice the 40 mph speed limit when his 1995 GMC Yukon went out of control, going airborn for approximately 182 feet north before crashing just north of Wolcott. He died of head and neck injuries.

Kim Hiler, Ambrose’s girlfriend, who had been partying with him that night and stayed at State Bridge Lodge when he left, told police that she hadn’t noticed Ambrose being or acting intoxicated. Police couldn’t find bar tabs or tickets for Ambrose at State Bridge Lodge, Roach’s report says.

But police found four beer cans at the accident scene, which police say may have come from his car.

All liquor stores in the area were closed – it was Sunday – and other bars closed earlier that day, according to the police report.

“Ambrose couldn’t have visited those establishments after he left State Bridge,” Roach says in her report. “He could have had a stash in his car and frequented it throughout the night.

“However, as State Bridge served Ambrose, they would be the responsible party.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at

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