Sangillo's to appeal after Portland City Council votes to pull bar's license

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PORTLAND — The attorney representing Sangillo’s Tavern promised Monday to appeal a City Council decision not to renew the bar’s annual liquor license.

The license application was denied by a 5-4 vote, with Councilors Cheryl Leeman, Jill Duson, John Coyne and Nick Mavodones opposed. The bar at 18 Hampshire St. will remain open while City Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta writes up the council’s reasons for the denial, and while the bar owner appeals to the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

West-Chuhta said a state appeal could take months because of a case backlog.

Before denying the renewal application, councilors also rejected a motion by Duson to delay a decision until their May 5 meeting to allow owner Dana Sangillo and manager Kathleen Sangillo, his aunt, to work with police on a plan to remedy problems attributed to the bar.

The Sangillos declined comment after the meeting.

The license vote came after councilors tabled discussions March 17. No new public comment was allowed Monday, but Harry Center, the attorney who represents Sangillo’s, and Police Chief Michael Sauschuck were given five minutes each to summarize their arguments.

“(Police) made arguments that were beyond the actual data that was submitted to (the council),” Center said about the police request to deny the license renewal.

Sauschuck countered by saying the recommendation to deny the license was a rare one, but justified by the number of police calls involving the bar and its surrounding area over the last year.

The complaints are topped by a Jan. 28 shooting outside the closed bar that left a 24-year-old man paralyzed. While the case remains unsolved, police said participants were in Sangillo’s before the shooting and the incident may have stemmed from a confrontation inside the bar.

“I think we have provided a common-sense and data-driven argument about public safety,” Sauschuck said.

During council comments that at one point drove Kathleen Sangillo to tears, the Sangillos were criticized for a lack of accountability, and complimented for operating a bar some councilors said they frequent.

Councilor Kevin Donoghue, who said he enjoyed a recent visit to Sangillo’s, added he was very disappointed no “remedial plan” was presented on March 17 in response to police concerns.

“I waited and waited and waited and I heard no responsibility taken by the ownership and management, and utter dismissal of what is happening in the neighborhood,” Donoghue said.

Leeman and Mavodones said the police accounts of at least 23 calls, including seven directly related to the bar, did not rise to a level sufficient to deny the license.

“I think the problem is you didn’t communicate firmly enough you are committed to improving. I’m willing to give you a second chance,” Leeman told the Sangillos.

Mavodones noted about half of 15 calls police cited came from one Hampshire Street resident. He also added that police arguments about pending citations for underaged patrons in the bar should not be included because they have not been adjudicated.

In October, Sangillo’s was cited for serving an underaged patron during a police compliance check. On the night of the shooting, bar video showed a 19-year-old male was inside the bar. Police said he was found to be intoxicated when they investigated the shooting, but admitted they have no proof he was served alcohol in the bar.

“In this case, I don’t think the facts support taking away the liquor license,” Mavodones said.

Because police never objected to renewal of Sangillo’s’ license until this year, some councilors said problems may indicate a lack of control by the bar’s owner, or something that could be remedied by more cooperation between police and bar management.

“You have to be really, really not plugged in, and be really, really ignoring the advice of the Police Department to get to this point,” Duson said before suggesting delaying the vote for a month.

The motion, which failed 5-4, drew a sharp objection from Councilor Ed Suslovic, who favored immediately denying the license renewal.

“It is a slap in the face to the concept of neighborhood,” he said about allowing Sangillo’s to remain open.

Sangillo’s opened about 60 years ago and operated on India Street until 1996. City records indicate Dana Sangillo took over ownership in 2009.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

By a 5-4 vote Monday, April7, Portland city Ccuncilors denied a renewal of the liquor license for Sangillo’s Tavern at 18 Hampshire St.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.