GREENVILLE, Maine — Although it was an appealing meal for some, the Black Frog Restaurant will no longer promote a free Skinny Dip sandwich for a naked plunge into Moosehead Lake.
Restaurant owner Leigh Turner came to that decision on Thursday on the heels of the Board of Selectmen’s denial of his liquor application renewal. Selectmen voted Wednesday night to deny his renewal request because of the nudity shown by some takers of the Skinny Dip menu offering. Selectmen did note that if the naked plunge promotion were removed, they’d have no problem granting the license.
When Turner learned of the board’s action on Thursday, he called town officials and told them he would remove the promotion. Town Manager John Simko said he polled selectmen Thursday morning and the consensus was to let the vote stand. A letter about the denial will be forwarded to the Maine Liquor Enforcement Division. An addendum will be added to inform state officials that Turner had agreed to remove the promotion. Turner has the right to appeal the decision and request a public hearing on the matter.
“It’s going to cause a frenzy, but the law is the law,” Chairman Bonnie DuBien said Wednesday of the board’s vote.
Local police have had several after-the-fact complaints about the naked plunges by patrons, and in August they summoned three southern Maine residents for indecent conduct after they jumped naked into the lake. The trio pleaded not guilty to the charges and trials are expected later.
“The violation that occurred is indecent conduct; indecent conduct is a Class E crime. It’s a misdemeanor. It’s the same classification as operating after suspension, disorderly conduct, engaging in prostitution and harassment,” Greenville Police Chief Scott MacMaster said Wednesday in recommending the denial. “If any of these were going on at a licensed establishment in town and we received complaints on it or we heard about it, I would come to you with the same recommendation not to approve the liquor license.” He said police had to be consistent in enforcing the law.
Turner was notified after complaints were aired to police, MacMaster said. Although Turner’s staff would canvas patrons to ensure no one would be offended by a naked plunge, MacMaster said the jumps were observed by others on Katahdin cruises or the boardwalk.
Harkening to the worldwide publicity the Skinny Dip sandwich has garnered since it appeared on Turner’s menu, Simko said he and MacMaster have had their names taken in vain on the Internet from here to Hong Kong.
People have the perception that “we’re the bad guys and the town is keeping small business down,” Simko said, but what the rest of the world doesn’t recognize is the proximity of the restaurant to public places.
“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to create this venue and we take pride in it and try to get people to come to Thoreau Park, the boardwalk, go on the Katahdin and go to the gazebo,” and unfortunately they are located near the restaurant, Simko said.
“You know, I almost feel like the reverend from ‘Footloose’ and that there’ll be no dancing in my town, but it’s not that,” MacMaster said. “I have to look at everybody’s safety and I have to represent everybody, so it’s not that I don’t think there should be dancing in Greenville or this or that. It’s a violation of law.”
Selectman Mike Theriault said Turner needed to make a choice. “He’s breaking the law. Stop breaking the law and you will stay in business, period,” he said. “He’s insulting families that bring revenue to a lot of the businesses here. He’s insulting families that live here. It really might be a little bit different if he was located on the other side of the mill up the lake and not in the middle of our community, sort of our hub epicenter.”
While Turner did not attend Wednesday’s meeting and was “shocked” at the board’s action, he said he would amend the menu offering so skinny dipping was not promoted at the restaurant in order to get his license renewal.
“That’s a no-brainer,” he said Thursday.
Turner, whose license will expire on Nov. 9, said he would turn to his humorous side to convey the change to his patrons.