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Blacksburg restaurant responds to drugging investigation

Blacksburg restaurant responds to drugging investigation

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ROANOKE — A Blacksburg restaurant where police are looking into complaints that customers were drugged announced Friday that it is cooperating with investigators — and hoped they would not find anything.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy for any behavior that violates or threatens the safety of our patrons or employees,” said the statement from Centro Taco Bar. “It is extremely concerning that anyone has felt that their safety or health was compromised in our establishment, and we take these allegations very seriously.

“We are hopeful that the investigation proceeds lawfully and results in no evidence to support these claims,” the statement continued.

Centro Taco Bar issued its statement Friday evening, a day after the Blacksburg Police Department sent out a news release saying that in recent months it had received “multiple complaints and social media reports” that patrons at the restaurant were given drinks spiked with something that caused cognitive impairment.

The release said town police were working with the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority and state Department of Forensic Science but had so far found no evidence to support the allegations — although the police statement said Centro Taco Bar had been cited for violating pandemic restrictions as a result of the investigation, and had received an ABC warning.

A search warrant that police filed May 18 described a woman who became disoriented and began vomiting soon after eating and drinking at Centro Taco Bar, and said police also were investigating another, similar incident at the restaurant.

Centro Taco Bar was in the news all week; its project manager, overseeing an expansion of the restaurant, was killed Monday in his apartment just around the corner from the business, and Hokie freshman linebacker Isimemen David Etute has been charged with second-degree murder.

On Friday, a spokesperson for relatives of Jerry Paul Smith, 40, said they were trying to make sense of his death. Etute, 18, is jailed and awaiting further court proceedings.

Centro Taco Bar’s management did not mention the homicide in its statement, focusing instead on the drugging allegations. “We want to reinforce our commitment to cooperating” with investigators, the statement said.

The restaurant is retraining staff “on how to recognize, prevent, and report any health or safety violation” and is taking “any extra precautions we can to ensure a safe dining and drinking experience,” the statement said.

Centro Taco Bar thanked the town and Virginia Tech communities “for your ongoing support.”

“It means the world to us and is not unnoticed during this time,” the statement said.

The Blacksburg police department did not respond Thursday or Friday to requests for comment about the investigation.

 

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