Downtown Brunswick bar will appeal loss of entertainment license

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BRUNSWICK — An owner of O’Shea’s Irish Restaurant & Cantina on Wednesday said he will appeal the town council’s denial of an entertainment license for the business.

Councilors on Monday ruled that allowing live music and dancing at the 94 Maine St. business would be detrimental to the health, safety, or general welfare of the public.

After hearing complaints from George Glover, who owns the Tondreau Building across the street, as well as receiving phone calls from members of the community, the council voted 7-1 to deny the license.

Glover, who has addressed the council on this issue in the past, said his tenants are frequently awakened by loud music and voices coming from O’Shea’s late at night. He described incidents including public urination and yelling that he has witnessed outside the bar while sitting in his car on Maine Street late at night, and said the problems have been worse under the current owners than in the past.

Although Glover has spent hours watching the action outside the bar, he said he has not tried to contact its owners about the problems.

“I don’t feel I need to expend the energy (to contact them) directly,” he said. “(The owner) knows where I am, he can contact me.”

Joe Cyr, a partial owner of O’Shea’s, said Monday’s council meeting was the first he had heard of Glover’s complaints, and said he was “more than willing to sit down with him and make things right.”

In response to Glover’s and Councilor Margo Knight’s complaints about cigarette butts littering the sidewalk in the morning, Cyr said he would have his cleaner come earlier in the day.

“We’re really trying to run a clean establishment,” he said.

Cyr said he hasn’t received any other complaints about noise or loud music, and said he has moved a stage to the rear of the business to contain noise.

Cyr also said other establishments, notably Joshua’s Restaurant & Tavern, 123 Maine St., receive more police visits, a statement that Police Department Cmdr. Marc Hagan later confirmed.

Between April 30, 2010, and June 1, 2011, O’Shea’s had 19 calls for police service, including two calls for physical fights, two for verbal arguments, and five for loud music.

Joshua’s had almost twice as many calls during the period: 36, according to Hagan. These included five complaints of people fighting, four for verbal arguments, and 10 for disorderly conduct.

However Hagan said many of these calls were self-generated, and may reflect the likelihood that the bar’s management reacts proactively to problems.

Another tenant in the Lincoln Building, where O’Shea’s is located, also claims to have had problems with O’Shea’s, but said they have been resolved.

Bill Milliken, who manages the UPS Store, declined to give specifics, but said he has had discussions with the bar’s management about its customers, and that the situation has improved.

“They’re very responsive,” he said, more-so than previous owners.

But on Monday night, Knight described the bar’s  management as anything but responsive.

She said that during a recent Brunswick Downtown Association clean-up of Maine Street, the area in front of the bar was “a mess.”

“No other business on Maine Street had such disrespect for the community,” Knight said. “I think we should not approve this (special amusement license) because supposedly they have experience running bars, and if this the way they run a bar until they are up against a wall, I am not happy with that.”

Only Councilor John Perreault urged for granting the license.

“I would rather give them a brief period to correct their mistakes, to try to work with them … before I completely eliminate it myself,” he said.

The bar’s owners quickly left the council chambers after the discussion, letting the door slam behind them.

After they left, councilors approved their request for outdoor seating with the conditions that the area be closed when food service stops or no later than 10 p.m.

As of Wednesday, O’Shea’s does not have a special amusement license, meaning the bar is only allowed to play recorded music.

O’Shea’s is jointly owned. Joe Cyr and Ryan Foley are minority owners, with 5 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Thomas Manning, who owns 55 percent, also owns the Cactus Club on Fore Street in Portland. That bar’s liquor license was revoked in February, citing irresponsible management and repeated police visits.

Foley said on Wednesday that he and his partners are appealing the Brunswick decision and and have hired the law firm of Moncure & Barnicle to represent them.

He said 80 percent of his customers come for the live music, and without a special amusement license he will be out of business within a month or two. He said the business employs 14 full-time workers.

Foley said O’Shea’s is being singled out both by the council and by Glover, and said he has never received complaints from anyone else.

“We had one person complain about us, one man, and he’s an attorney,” Foley said.

Two years ago, Glover raised similar complaints about MJ’s Grille & Tavern, which previously occupied 94 Maine St.

At a July 2009  council meeting, Glover asked the town to deny MJ’s a special amusement license due to loud crowds that reportedly gathered around the bar after closing. He also requested legal action against the bar’s owners.

But then-Acting Town Manager Gary Brown said Brunswick would not pursue stringent legal action against MJ’s because it would single out the business for a problem faced by all bars.

Although the two cases appear similar, Knight, who represents the district, said she perceives them differently.

“For me what made the difference is that people have had experience running bars before,” she said. “(MJ’s owners) were new at this, and they really did try to make it a bar that would fit in with downtown Brunswick.”

She said O’Shea’s owners have not been as responsible.

Many town councilors admitted on Monday night that they are not patrons of O’Shea’s and are rarely out late at bars – something Foley said he believes may have stacked the deck against the business.

“The average town council member is in bed at 9 p.m.,” he said. “(O’Shea’s customers) come out at 11 p.m.”

Still, he said he doesn’t think downtown is too puritanical for his establishment, and said the only difference between O’Shea’s and other bars is that he offers more dancing.

“It’s not really fair how we were treated,” he said.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

Sidebar Elements

Council begins process for Station Ave. garage

BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday amended the town’s zoning ordinance to allow a parking structure along Station Avenue.

Councilors modified Multiple Use Zones 2, 3, 4 and 6, which cover the rail corridor from Union to Pleasant streets, upper and lower Harpswell Road, and Fox Run Drive.

GrowSmart Maine invited Brunswick to apply for a grant for a parking structure under the state-funded Communities for Maine’s Future program.

The council will hold a public hearing on the grant application at its June 20 meeting.

Councilors also exercised their option not to repurchase a formerly town-owned lot in the Brunswick Industrial Park.

The foreclosed property was owned by now-defunct Thibeault Energy. The town has an option to reacquire the property, which has never been developed, but Town Manager Gary Brown advised against doing so.

Councilors unanimously agreed.

— Emily Guerin