BREWER, Maine — The transfer of ownership of a Brewer restaurant and a delay by the city in issuing a liquor license because of the criminal record of one of the establishment’s employees have led a state official to question whether the business is legally selling alcohol.
The liquor license application for the Timeout Family Restaurant, which was presented to city councilors on Tuesday, states that Robert “Bob” Thomas owns the business and Ray Lefebvre is the manager.
If that is true, then the business cannot legally sell alcohol because the liquor license is still listed under Michael Lucas, who opened the restaurant in January, an official from the Maine Department of Public Safety’s Liquor Licensing and Inspection Division in Augusta said Thursday.
“They should not be selling alcohol on Mr. Lucas’ liquor license,” said Lt. David Bowler, who leads the department’s special investigation unit.
If Thomas owns the business, “they’re breaking the law,” he said.
A reporter and photographer with the Bangor Daily News went to the restaurant just before noon Thursday and ordered and received a beer at the bar, which was lined with dozens and dozens of bottles of alcohol.
In a BDN article that ran Tuesday about Thomas opening the Timeout, Lefebvre stated that Thomas took full ownership of the restaurant in mid-May from Lucas. Thomas also issued a press release last week that states he hired Lefebvre to manage his business.
According to Bowler, Lucas is still listed as the business owner, which also is what Lucas contends.
“I have no information on the sale of that business,” Bowler said. If “he sold it to someone else, they have to get their own license.”
That is exactly what Thomas tried to do Tuesday when he approached the Brewer City Council for a new liquor license. That hit a snag when councilors heard that Lefebvre, the listed manager, is a felon, City Manager Steve Bost said Thursday.
“They didn’t get their liquor license because one of the criminal background checks came back positive,” he said. “The criminal background check is part of the requirements of the application.”
Lefebvre was convicted in Middlesex County Superior Court in Massachusetts for distributing images of children having sex and three separate counts for possession of child pornography, according to the Maine Sex Offender Registry.
He was sentenced in September 2007 to 2½ years in prison and 10 years of probation.
Thomas’ liquor license application request was tabled until the July 13 council meeting and the public hearing was continued. Asked Wednesday why the license application was continued, Mayor Arthur “Archie” Verow said it was a technical matter.
“It’s my understanding that Mr. Thomas is going to assume the role of owner-manager” for the future application, Bost said.
Thomas, who owns Thomas Tax & Financial Services in Bangor, said late Thursday afternoon that he had fired Lefebvre.
“I didn’t realize what he [had] done was a felony,” he said. “I can’t use him as a manager. I can’t have him as an employee.”
Thomas added later: “I was giving him a second chance. I feel people deserve a second chance.”
Thomas said that paperwork to transfer ownership of the business from Lucas to him was signed on May 25 and has been filed with the state. He said Lucas is now his employee.
“I’m the owner,” Thomas said. “We’re using Mike’s liquor license because he is an employee. This happens all the time when the owner of the business property has to take over the business.
“We don’t have a liquor license,” Thomas added. “Mike owns that liquor license, but he’s still working.”
The state has a 30-day temporary liquor license for businesses that transfer ownership, Bowler said. No temporary license was requested by the new owner, he said.
City Clerk Howard Kroll said Thursday afternoon that Thomas plans to request a temporary license and has asked the city for the required letter in support. That letter has not yet been issued, although Kroll polled councilors on Thursday and they all support allowing the temporary liquor license.
Because of state shutdown days on Friday and Monday, the application by the new owner would not reach officials until Tuesday at the earliest.
Thomas said he provided Lucas with financial backing when he opened the restaurant in January, and is owed thousands of dollars. Thomas filed a business and personal property declaration for the business, located at 30 Clisham Road, on Monday under the name Asbury LLC, according to officials at the city’s assessing office. Asbury LLC also is the name he is using to apply for the liquor license.
Whether paperwork was filed with the state transferring ownership could not be confirmed Thursday.
Bowler said the only way the sale of alcohol would be legal is if Lucas still owned the business.
Lucas said that paperwork has been created to transfer ownership, but he has not signed anything.
“I haven’t sold it,” he said. “He [Thomas] will be the owner down the road. We haven’t signed any papers yet. It’s just semantics, … it’s signing a piece of paper. As soon as he gets all his licenses, I will sink off into the sunset.”
When asked what happened on May 25, the date Thomas said the business changed hands, Lucas said, “I went on vacation.”
Bowler is adamant that Thomas has no right to use Lucas’ liquor license.
“What he is doing is trying to make the situation fit to him because he wants to serve,” Bowler said.