City prosecutors have filed assault, hit and run, and DUI charges against Seattle restaurateur Michael McConnell after he allegedly crashed into, and then attacked, another motorist near Seattle University last week.
McConnell has ties to a number of Seattle restaurants and business ventures. McConnell owns the Caffe Vita and Via Tribunali chains, is the co-owner of Pike Street Fish Fry, former owner of Cremant, and investor or partner in Vellottii Pizza, the Capitol Hill Block Party and the Crocodile Cafe, where McConnell co-hosted a fundraiser for Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine and City Attorney Pete Holmes in September.
According to a police report, a man told police he was sitting in his car waiting for the light at James St and Broadway at about 6:00pm on March 31st when black Mercedes, apparently occupied by McConnell, crashed into him from behind.
Both drivers pulled off of the road but, the report says, but McConnell refused to give the victim his information. The report notes the victim smelled alcohol on McConnell’s breath.
McConnell’s attorney—who was driving another vehicle behind McConnell—tried to intervene, the police report says, and told the victim “they would give him $1,500 to pay for the vehicle damages and not call police.”
McConnel then “refused to pay any money,” the report says, and walked away from the scene. According to the report, McConnell returned a short time later, grabbed the victim, and punched him “with both fists in the chest.” McConnell then walked off toward the Seattle University campus, leaving his Mercedes at the scene.
Police arrived at the scene of the accident and found that the Mercedes was registered to Caffe Vita. Officers went to the coffee shop to try to locate McConnell, but staff told police they had not seen him since the morning. Employees then informed officers that McConnell also owns Via Tribunali down the street from Vita, where police found McConnell a short time later.
According to the report, McConnell admitted he’d been involved in the accident, but his attorney—who was apparently with him at the restaurant—told police the other driver had told McConnel “to pay $1,500 or he would call police.”
Police arrested McConnell and transported him to the East Precinct—which is just up the street from Caffe Vita—where, the report says, McConnell refused a breathalyzer test.
Court records say McConnell has entered a not guilty plea on all charges. McConnell could not immediately be reached for comment.
Several of McConnell’s businesses currently serve beer or liquor—the Washington State Liquor Control Board approved a liquor license application for Caffe Vita’s Capitol Hill location just last month—and a conviction for DUI could potentially affect McConnell’s licenses.
According to WSLCB spokeswoman Anne Radford, “If we are aware of a licensee who has some criminal convictions, we could seek cancellation of their liquor license.” Radford also says the city could see to block any future renewals of McConnell’s liquor licenses.
McConnell is scheduled to appear in Seattle Municipal Court for a hearing on May 3rd.
Update: City Attorney Pete Holmes’ spokeswoman Kimberley Mills just called to let us know that he is “recusing himelf” from any participation in the case, because of his prior relationship with McConnell.
The case will be overseen by the city’s criminal division chief, Craig Sims. “[Pete] won’t know about [the case] and as such won’t be making any decisions about it,” Mills says.