2012-06-14 / Front Page

Liquor license transferred

Council approves permit shift to Jamestown Tavern
BY ALEXANDER RAEBURN

In a unanimous decision, the Town Council voted Monday to approve the transfer of the liquor license formerly held by the Portuguese American Citizens Club to the Jamestown Tavern.

With dozens in attendance, advocates and opponents expressed their opinions about the issue during a discussion on the subject that lasted more than three hours. Attorneys representing the Holy Ghost Society, the PAC Club, the Jamestown Tavern, and neighboring residents of the business all took to the podium to express the concerns and desires of their clients.

John A. Murphy, the attorney representing the society and the PAC, spoke on the history of the club and the building. “The building that is there was built in 1927. It’s an integral part of the community and I know I don’t have to tell you that.”

Murphy went on to explain that the building shares a similar role to local churches and Town Hall, saying it was part of the “heart and soul” of the community. He mentioned various functions that have taken place there throughout years, noting that some of the events were attended by large outdoor crowds where music was played and alcohol was served.

The townspeople joined the discussion on both sides of the issue.

Barbara Trout is one of the neighbors of the tavern. “We were well aware of the existence and operations of the PAC at the time we purchased our house on Lawn Avenue,” she said. “I applaud and have supported the PAC for its community involvement and its involvement in the history of Jamestown. We recognize that the PAC is a Jamestown institution. That being said, my husband and I believe that the PAC’s community involvement and it being a Jamestown institution does not give the PAC, or its proprietors, special privileges above the law, or the right to impinge on our rights as neighbors and taxpayers in Jamestown.”

Trout went on to say that loud music, offensive language, arguments and screeching tires were some of the situations she has been subjected to. “The aforementioned activities over the past few years, and more specifically the past few months, have caused my husband and I to have to alter our lifestyle.”

William Landry, an attorney representing several of the residential neighbors of the tavern, including Trout, spoke for his clients who stood in opposition to the request to transfer the license unless certain conditions were met. “The reality is that this proposed tenant has been somewhat of a nightmare here in a very short period of time,” said Landry. “It’s only been three months.”

Police Chief Ed Mello presented recommendations prior to the meeting on how to deal with some of the issues experienced by nearby residents. Mello’s list included approval or special permit for exterior speakers, additional signage or exterior lighting. He also recommended that no outdoor bar be built, and that the hours the patio is open be restricted.

Mello also explained the challenge of the police when it comes to balancing “neighbors concerns, along with what appears to be a business that’s expanding, growing and doing well, which is a good thing.”

Mello said that during recent monitoring of the sound levels, the spikes that reach above the 75-decibel limit were mostly due to activities on the patio.

PAC President Joe Medeiros spoke in favor of the transfer. He said that he has always done everything he can to address complaints. “One thing about being from the island, you try to be a good neighbor to everybody. There are people that have been there for a long time, loyal employees. I took money out of my own pocket to keep that place going, not for the PAC, but for the people that work there.”

Medieros asked the council to look at the big picture and to give the tavern a chance to make things right. He added that more than 20 people are employed there.

Carolyn Biltcliffe, owner of the Jamestown Tavern, said that the process of opening this business has not been so straightforward. “It’s June. We’ve been open since February. If there were issues, I don’t understand why people didn’t come together up front.”

She said she understood the “island atmosphere,” having spent a number of years living on Martha’s Vineyard.

Biltcliffe then inquired as to why Councilman Bill Murphy stopped going to the PAC Club shortly after it became the Jamestown Tavern. “Why not open a potential line of communication and say, ‘Look, there’s a potential issue here?’” she asked.

“The reason I stopped going,” said Murphy, “was Greg Johnson.”

Johnson is the current manager of the tavern.

Murphy said he spoke with Johnson about making sure he had everything in place, and his response was that he wanted to file a lawsuit against the town of Jamestown for police harassment.

“I didn’t think that was the right thing to be saying at the time and I checked into it,” Murphy said. “The police weren’t harassing him. They were looking into some complaints, which I thought was appropriate. And I also asked him that morning if he had made his application and had the lease squared away and he firmly said ‘yes.’ That was a lie that day.”

Murphy then expressed his opinion on the source of the discord between the tavern and its neighbors. He said he was sensing that there has been a lack of open, friendly dialogue. “I can sense that they’ve not felt warm conversation.” He said that he didn’t feel that there was any “extra effort” for the two sides to get together, sit down and discuss the issues.

“Not to be flippant,” said Councilman Mike White, “but basically what we’re talking about is that the PAC was OK as long as they weren’t doing very good business. They’re now victims of their own success because they’ve managed to now draw a lot of people.”

The discussion finally narrowed to the issue of noise from the patio, and what would be a reasonable time at night to stop guests from using that area.

Mello stated that the tavern had been cited for a noise violation just after 8 p.m. on June 10.

“Loud noise can occur at 5 p.m.,” said Town Council President Mike Schnack. “You could have a rowdy party at 6.”

After much discussion on reasonable time limits for patio use, the council’s final decision called for the patio to be closed at 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

At the time of the meeting’s end, the town had yet to receive an accurate outdoor seating diagram, and was still waiting on a necessary tax form, both of which were needed to complete the transfer and allow the tavern to open on the following day. According to Town Clerk Cheryl Fernstrom, all of the necessary documentation was not submitted. As of Wednesday, Mello said that the Jamestown Tavern was not operating.

In other news, the library secured approval for door replacements. At a cost of $25,239, the Town Council voted to approve the cost of replacing both entrances at the Jamestown Philomenian Library. Within the current budget there is $15,000 set aside for the project. After a suggestion from Schnack, the remaining $10,239 will be taken from the 2013 budget so the library does not incur the added cost, as this could result in library programs suffering.

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