by Elisa Hawkes
Coastal Journal staff
BATH — Greg Tisdale, owner of the Black Barnacle Pub at 102 Front St. in Bath, had no way of knowing his business would essentially be shut down when he attended the June 13 City Council meeting.
Tisdale said he went to the meeting thinking he was going to renew his liquor and special amusement licenses, but was denied renewal by the City Council. The licenses are due to expire on June 27, and according to Tisdale, he will have to close his doors on the 28th without their renewal.
The City Council voted four to one against renewing Tisdale’s liquor license, and three to two against the special amusement license. Councilor Bernard Wyman voted in favor of granting the liquor license, and Councilors Sean Paulhus and Wyman voted in favor of the amusement license. City Council Chairman David Sinclair did not vote in either case. According to Sinclair, it is an unwritten rule that the chairman does not vote unless there is a tie, he greatly disagrees with vote results, or it is a matter of public policy.
Several downtown businesses contacted the council renewal panel about the Black Barnacle, saying it was having a negative effect on their businesses. They cited complaints such as instances of loud and offensive language, second-hand smoke entering their shops preventing them from keeping doors open, vomit on an entrance step on several mornings, and several women leaving a store due to “noise and intimidation.”
Tisdale said he keeps video surveillance of the outside of his establishment. If he was given the dates these events occurred, he could check the tapes to see what was happening outside.
Tisdale said he was not prepared for the onslaught of complaints he was met with at the meeting. He has tried to handle any issues that have arisen in a timely and reasonable manner. Tisdale said he and the police have a good working relationship. He said the other business owners had not come to him with these complaints prior to the meeting.
Sinclair said Main Street Bath representatives had contacted Tisdale about the issues reported by abutting and area businesses. Sinclair said Tisdale had also spoken with Skip Taylor of Winters Gone Fashions at 104 Front St., and should have been aware of the complaints lodged against him.
Attorney Jack Barnicle, of Moncure and Barnicle, Attorneys at Law, has been retained by Tisdale to aid him in renewing his licenses. Barnicle said his client received no warning of what the meeting would entail. Barnicle said he has sent letters to the City of Bath regarding the Freedom of Information Act in an effort to obtain the specifics that led to the decision, and regarding what he sees as the problems involved in their decision.
Barnicle said Bath Chief of Police Mike Field and Lt. Stan Ceilinski spoke before the Council on June 13. They were both very supportive of Tisdale, saying he has been cooperative and receptive in situations when they had to contact him. Field said they have always had good conversations, and Tisdale has tried to rectify problems any time an issue has arisen.
Cielinski said the department received seven calls regarding the Black Barnacle Pub from June 1, 2011 through June 1, 2012. He said he received approximately the same number of call for J.R. Maxwells, another restaurant and pub on Front Street, during the same time period.
Sinclair said, “It’s not about comparing businesses [when renewing licenses]. We evaluate each business on its own merits. Other businesses wouldn’t and shouldn’t come up in an evaluation, only its own track record. It [denial of renewal] was decided based upon the number of complaints from abutting and area businesses and the amount of harm done to those businesses.”
Barnicle said one of the problems with the Council’s decision is, “They decided ahead of time there would be no transcript of the proceedings. The clerk took minutes, but there was no actual transcript. That’s what the city has, and it’s not sufficient to meet statutory requirements in order to deny the license renewals. There should have been a transcript given the seriousness of the matter – closing a man’s business.”
Barnicle said he is also concerned that the council listened to business owners’ complaints, but ignored police statements. According to Barnicle, he has obtained a copy of the minutes of the July 13 meeting. He said the council “should not try to add anything to it or change anything,” as the minutes have been completed at this point.
Barnicle plans to file an appeal with the Sagadahoc County Superior Court or with the state’s Liquor Licensing and Compliance Division. He said the most important thing to obtain now is a stay of expiration, enabling Tisdale to remain open until a final decision regarding his licensing can be reached. The state licensing agency and the court’s decision would take precedence over the city’s decision, should they decide to renew the licenses.
Barnicle said, “It is unfathomable to me, especially in the case of public safety issues, that police support was disregarded. But there is no record of what transpired. The Council decided not to record the meeting and they are stuck with what they have.”