Bath bar owner promises legal action after City Council denies licenses
BATH — The owner of a Front Street pub, denied license renewals by the City Council last week and fearing that he will soon have to shut his business, plans to take legal action to overturn the council's decision.
Greg Tisdale, who opened the Black Barnacle Pub at 102 Front St. in April 2011, was denied renewals of his liquor and special amusement licenses by the City Council on June 13.
"We are pursuing an appeal," Jack Barnicle, an attorney representing Tisdale, said Tuesday. The civil action, which Barnicle said he expects to be filed by the end of this week, could go to either Sagadahoc County Superior Court or, administratively, to the state's Liquor Licensing and Compliance Division.
Barnicle said a "stay" – a delay of the city's action – would be required from the court or agency in order for Tisdale to operate with his existing licenses until a decision has been rendered in the appeal.
The council voted 4-1 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.
City Council Chairman David Sinclair, who did not vote in either decision, said Monday that the panel "received input from a number of other downtown businesses, reflecting negative effects on their businesses from the behaviors of some of the Black Barnacle's customers."
Tisdale said he contacted an attorney last Thursday morning to see what he could do to overturn the decisions.
"I didn't expect to get run over by a freight train when I walked through the door," he said of last week's meeting. "I don't think the City Council wanted to hear me speak at all ... . They took all hearsay to make their decision, not the facts that the Police Department made."
Bath Police Lt. Stan Cielinski said Monday that his department received seven calls concerning the Black Barnacle between June 1, 2011, and June 1, 2012, three of which were reported by the establishment itself. The others were called in by someone else, or were the result 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.
Police Chief Mike Field said Tisdale has been cooperative with his department, and "very receptive when we've contacted him. ... He's come in and talked to us about things, and it's always been a good conversation."
Field confirmed that any time there has been an issue, Tisdale has been good about trying to rectify it.
Skip Taylor of Winters Gone Fashions, 104 Front St., outlined a list of complaints about the pub in one of the letters the City Council received on the matter. 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," along with multiple "instances of vomit on our entrance and porch. Not a pleasant pre-opening duty for my wife."
Taylor also claimed "four ladies from Brunswick with out-of-state visitors left our store due to noise and intimidation. I am sure they will not return to our store and the question is will they return to Bath?"
"If no resolution to this situation can be obtained then Winters Gone Fashions will be forced to leave our wonderful city," he said.
Tisdale said a video camera looks out through his windows and door, and that if complainants can provide at least the date of an incident, he could review his surveillance, which is stored for a year.
"I'm not the only establishment in town," he said. "When my bartenders leave at night, our sidewalk is not covered in vomit, I can guarantee that."
Tisdale's liquor and special amusement licenses are due to expire June 27. Without those licenses, he said, "I'd have to close the doors on the 28th."
"It's only a 48-seat restaurant, and we are ... just over a year into business right now," Tisdale said. "And the rule of thumb, I've been told, is it takes three years to start showing a profit. So losing anything right now, especially my amusement license ... would be devastating."
Merrill said her decision to not renew the licenses was "really hard."
"I was not expecting to go in there that night and essentially close down a business," she said. "I have ... a lot of sympathy for the owner, because it sounds like ... a situation that was really beyond his control."
Merrill said she voted against the licenses because of "the length of time that these complaints had gone on without being addressed, and it sounded like he 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."
"For me, personally, it just seemed like a bad place for a business that needed more elbow room," she said "... and Front Street certainly doesn't offer that."