Liquor license cap raised

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 9:30am

The Board of License Commissioners voted unanimously (4-0), with Second Warden Norris Pike absent, to raise the cap on Class BV beverage licenses from 24 to 25 in order to accommodate one Block Island restaurant; granted the renewal of a license for an establishment relocating to a new, proposed building; and slapped a list of stipulations on another. The last time the Commissioners raised the cap was Nov. 30, 2015 for the issuance of a beverage license for the Topside Cafe.

It all happened at Monday’s meeting of the Board of License Commissioners, at Town Hall, where about 60 people congregated to obtain liquor and outdoor entertainment licenses. Prior to the meeting, one person in attendance remarked that she thought it would be “standing room only.”

First Warden Ken Lacoste made the motion to approve the Class BV liquor license for Tigerfish, a restaurant on Corn Neck Road owned by Brenna and Ross Audino, subject to a raising of the liquor license cap. Councilor André Boudreau seconded the motion, and the Commissioners voted 4-0 in favor of granting the license.

But then Lacoste said his vote to approve the license came with a qualifier.

He said that “if other constituents use a catering license in lieu of a liquor license” on the island, like the Audinos did this past summer with Tigerfish, they would “not be looked upon favorably, at least by this Councilor,” and “will be prosecuted to the extent of the law.”

“Prosecuted for what? They didn’t do anything wrong,” said Boudreau, noting that the catering license was a state-granted license.

“It’s a matter of interpreting the law,” said Lacoste. “If it’s in violation of our liquor ordinance, then we can (prosecute).”

“The state’s liquor ordinance would supersede the town’s ordinance,” said Boudreau. “I don’t want us to go around saying we are going to prosecute people over something we have no control over.”

“That’s Ken’s comment,” said Councilor Martha Ball, whose remark seemed to defuse the discussion. Lacoste said it was his personal feelings about the license, and simply a qualifier.

As for the Gaffett family, they received unanimous approval of the renewal of a Class BV beverage license for their Old Island Pub restaurant, which resided at the location Tigerfish now occupies. The motion for the renewal was made by Lacoste, and seconded by Ball.

The Gaffetts are hoping to reopen their restaurant/bar in June, in a building that will be constructed adjacent to the Audinos other establishment, the Poor People’s Pub on Ocean Avenue. 

Councilor Chris Willi asked the Gaffetts’ attorney, William Landry, how the license was renewable. Willi said, “Last November, the relocation of the license was granted, and that went into effect Feb. 1, 2017?”

“The relocation went into effect last November,” said Landry. “The license was actively issued. It wasn’t granted, and held. And it was utilized, in the former location (on Corn Neck Road) until February. It was issued with permission to remain closed, regardless of the location, through Nov. 30. The new location is not ready yet. Our expectation is that it will be open, perhaps, by June 1.”

“Our liquor year runs from Dec. 1 through November 30,” said Boudreau. “So between Dec. 1 and November 30 the Old Island Pub was in fact open until February.”

“Correct,” said Landry.

“Then the liquor license was used during our liquor year,” noted Boudreau. “So I don’t see an issue.”

“I agree,” said Landry.

The Commissioners granted unanimous approval of a Class BV beverage license for Club Soda on Connecticut Avenue, with a list of notable stipulations. Lacoste made the motion, seconded by Willi. Several dissenters, including neighbor John Cullen, submitted their concerns regarding the approval.

The list of stipulations note: that management shall not consume alcoholic beverages, shall be cooperative, shall not engage in physical altercations, shall notify the New Shoreham Police of any illegal drug activity on the premises of Club Soda, and not allow congregating on the front porch.

Cullen said his family is witness to fights, and too much congregating on the front porch, with no crowd control at times during the summer season. “It seems some of the activities there got out of control. When you have that many people you’ve got to have somebody managing the crowd.”

Shel Swanson submitted a letter to the Commissioners that echoed Cullen’s concerns, noting that there were too many people congregating and smoking on the front porch, and also that someone was ranting loudly while riding a “horse on the premises.”

Co-owner Maxon Balmforth apologized to Cullen, and noted that he wanted to be respectful and sensitive of the neighbors. He also said the fact that someone rode a horse onto his property was something he had no control over.

Balmforth agreed to address the congregating issue, and designate a smoking area on the property.

The Commissioners asked Police Chief Vin Carlone to address the matter at the meeting. Carlone said that if the establishment cooperates then no enforcement action needs to be taken. 

“What we’re looking for is cooperation.” 

The Chief suggested that Balmforth put a sign out front that reads: “No congregating.”

The Commissioners, as part of their motion for approval, noted that a sign would be required to be in compliance with the beverage license ordinance.