Bath council reverses previous decision, awards licenses to pub

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BATH — The City Council reversed a June 13 decision Monday and unanimously renewed liquor and special amusement licenses for the Black Barnacle pub.

Greg Tisdale, who opened the 102 Front St. venue in April 2011, had said he believed he would have to close the business and threatened to take legal action to overturn the council’s earlier decision.

The council voted 4-1 last month against the liquor license, with Councilors Steve Brackett, Meadow Merrill, Sean Paulhus and Andrew Winglass in the majority; Councilor Bernard Wyman voted to grant the license.

The council voted 3-2 against the special amusement license, with Wyman and Paulhus voting for the license.

Paulhus, who on Monday moved to reverse the previous decision, said “this has been one of the toughest things since I’ve seen on the council, in four years. … I just think that we might have rushed (in making the decision) … I thought it was a good idea to bring this back up at this meeting.”

Chairman David Sinclair, who did not vote last month, said at the time that the panel had received input from other downtown businesses concerning negative effects on them from behavior by some Black Barnacle customers.

One complaint was from Skip Taylor of Winters Gone Fashions, 104 Front St., who outlined a list of complaints about the pub in a letter to the council. They included an increase in “instances of loud and very offensive language,” second-hand smoke “being drawn into our store preventing keeping our door open on nice days,” and several “instances of vomit on our entrance and porch. Not a pleasant pre-opening duty for my wife.”

He said that without a resolution, his business would be forced to leave the city.

Councilor Mari Eosco, who did not attend the June 13 meeting, said she was surprised to learn of its outcome. “I don’t think that we’re in the business of deciding where businesses can be in the downtown,” she said Monday.

Eosco said she spoke with the police chief and code enforcement officer prior to the meeting, and “there was no concern on their part” about the Black Barnacle.

Police Chief Mike Field said last month that Tisdale has been cooperative with his department, and that any time there had been an issue, the pub owner had been good about trying to reach a resolution.

Lt. Stan Cielinski said at the time that police received seven calls involving the Black Barnacle between June 1, 2011, and June 1, 2012, three of which were reported by the establishment. The others were called in by someone else, or  resulted from of an officer discovering a problem.

Cielinski said J.R. Maxwell’s, a longtime restaurant and pub at 122 Front St., had approximately the same number of calls during the same period.

Eosco said she thought the venue had changed for the better under its current ownership, and noted that cigarette butts litter the entire city, not just the area around the Black Barnacle.

Councilor Kyle Rogers, who also did not attend the June 13 meeting, said Monday that in his six years on the City Council, “this is one of the very few public hearings that I can ever remember of a renewal of a liquor license.”

He said that if the police or fire chiefs, or code enforcement officer, say a place needs to be shut down, “then we need to have a public hearing (on the matter). Without that, I see no point in having the public hearing.”

Rogers added that “the time this council should have dealt with the Black Barnacle was when (it) initially opened. If we didn’t want a bar in the middle of downtown, we should have stopped it at that point. We didn’t.”

He called the venue “a very nice place to visit” and pointed out that it also serves food. Tisdale has said his business houses a 48-seat restaurant.

Brackett said he “assumed that it was a public hearing because there had been complaints,” adding that he heard complaints about the business, but nothing about what was going to be done to resolve the issues, “other than we’ll do … whatever can be done.”

Merrill said last month that she voted against the licenses due to the amount of time the complaints lingered without being addressed. She said “it sounded like (Tisdale) was trying to make changes now, but it just seemed like a little too late to make amends for the disturbances that have been going on downtown throughout most of the year.”

“When the issues are brought to my attention, I don’t hesitate to jump right on top of them,” Tisdale said, adding that if his neighbors do not complain to him, he cannot address the issues.

“I’ll do whatever I can,” he said.

A condition of Tisdale’s liquor license renewal is that litter cleanup must occur by 8 a.m. the morning after each business day.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.