May 21, 2018
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Harvard student asked to leave bar for ‘bad behavior,’ not drunkenness

Nathan Bihlmaier (right)
By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — Ri Ra Irish Pub officials said Friday that when Harvard Business School student Nathan Bihlmaier left their pub, his intoxication level was judged to be a 2 out of 10. It was his behavior, not drunkenness, that caused them to ask him to leave their Portland establishment late Saturday night.

Bihlmaier, 31, disappeared early Sunday morning and was found dead late Tuesday morning in Portland Harbor. The cause of death was determined to be accidental drowning.

He was in the Old Port with two Harvard classmates to celebrate their upcoming business school graduation when he was asked to leave Ri Ra because, police officials have said, he was “visibly intoxicated.”

In their first interview since the incident, Jay Luther, owner of the 12 Ri Ra Irish Pubs nationwide, and Northeast Group Business Manager James Thompson told the Bangor Daily News Friday Bihlmaier was asked to leave primarily because of bad behavior, not drunkenness.

They also said Scott St. Ours, the security manager at the Portland pub, offered to procure Bihlmaier a taxi from a nearby cab stand, but Bihlmaier declined because he was staying at the Hilton Garden Inn across the street.

“Scott stated to us and to officers, he offered him a cab multiple times,” Thompson said. “Scott observed his behavior. He felt like he wasn’t staggering, he was speaking clearly. He was doing the most he could without forcing something on Nathan. That’s above and beyond what Maine state law says. Scott indicated that on a scale of 1 to 10 [in terms of intoxication], he was a 2. His eyes were not glassed over, and he was walking straight.”

“He was not falling over drunk,” Luther confirmed.

However, the Ri Ra officials said, he was acting inappropriately. They declined to describe in detail what actions caused Bihlmaier to be asked to leave out of respect for his family.

“He was removed for observed behavior that goes beyond drunkenness,” Luther said. “His behavior was first brought to our attention by a customer.”

St. Ours witnessed Bihlmaier turning west on Commercial Street, Thompson said, after he was escorted from the premises around 11:30 p.m.

Police have reported that Bihlmaier later spoke to his friends by cellphone at 12:15 a.m. near a building he didn’t recognize but described to friends — investigators later came to believe it was the U.S. Custom House on Commercial Street — and his cellphone stopped transmitting at 12:54 a.m. It remains unclear whether his cellphone stopped transmitting because its battery was drained or because it was underwater.

Bihlmaier’s friends reported him missing the following morning after being unable to rendezvous with him, and his body was found around 11:45 a.m. Tuesday by divers near the Custom House Wharf after nearly two days of searching.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck told reporters this week his department is attempting to piece together Bihlmaier’s final hours and determine how he ended up in the water by watching streetside security video footage from establishments along Commercial Street.

Early on in the investigation, police reported finding an article of clothing in Portland Harbor near the Maine State Pier, two wharves east of the Custom House Wharf.

“It’s a terrible situation,” Luther said. “It’s a tragedy. I really feel for his family and his wife. It’s been a long week for a lot of us. We’re cooperating with the police and hopefully they can find out what happened and find closure here.”

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