PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Bou’s Brew Pub, a Main Street bar, has two weeks to provide a plan of action to make improvements or the City Council will consider recommending its state liquor license not be renewed, the council decided Monday night.
The council may reconsider the issue at its April 21 meeting, provided all necessary paperwork has been submitted and issues of concern have been adequately addressed.
Bou’s current liquor license expires April 10. Unless it can obtain an extension from the state, the bar would not be able to serve alcohol as of Friday. April 15 marks the expiration for Bou’s music and entertainment permit; after that date if the owners have not obtained a renewal, that too would be prohibited.
Councilors spent nearly two hours discussing the matter, with the public — including citizens and downtown business owners — expressing their concerns. Darrell White, chief of the Presque Isle Fire Department, and Matt Irwin, police chief, provided input from a safety perspective.
“Council has two options. If you feel they’re operating consistently with Chapter 41-A (special amusement ordinance, which provides framework for the issuance and therefore the revocation), you can vote to take no action and allow them to operate. If not, you could meet with them, requesting they meet requirements within a set period. You don’t have the authority to revoke the liquor license but can make a recommendation to the state of Maine,” said City Manager Jim Bennett.
“You don’t take final action tonight. But if you desire to revoke, you’d spell out your desires/reasons, then make a final decision in two weeks. Then the final decision would go on to the state,” he said. “That’s the process I’d suggest.”
Irwin explained the nature of the calls the police department has received concerning Bou’s over the past year.
“We had 11 calls documented that were fight-related. Those sorts of calls are a violation of Title 28 (liquor license). Eight calls were directly related to noise complaints, which violates Title 28 in my opinion. Twelve calls related to unidentified or unspecified disturbances — a Title 28 offense. Patrons/employees are essentially causing disturbances or breaches of peace that affect others in the area,” Irwin said.
“Two of the fight calls — one had a knife we didn’t find and another had a gun which resulted in an arrest. All calls were between 10 p.m. and 3:30 a.m. A lot of these calls last many minutes up to many hours,” continued Irwin.
Irwin said “the problem in the end seems to be the tendency on the part of management or ownership not to do anything until threatened to be closed down or a cease and desist order is in place. They’ve done that with the fire marshal, health (inspector) and neighbors,” said Irwin. “There’s a certain deliberate indifference to people’s problems and their (other business owners and residents) attempts to have peaceful operation of their businesses and life.”
White followed, advising councilors that Don McAllister, the state health inspector, had found Bou’s in violation last April because they lacked food preparation certification, with another inspection in July finding them still not in compliance. The owners have since paid fines and back fees and are now in compliance.
“It’s the same with the fire marshal when they applied for a dance permit. Violations were noted and correction letters sent, with a time frame to address. Months went by before they corrected the issues and paid related fees,” White said.
White noted other issues of concern included management not knowing if the sprinkler system worked and having more people in the establishment than are allowed by law.
“A couple times fire officials have had conversations about attendance — occupancy load has been too high a number of times and is an issue as well,” White said.
Kylie Oliveira, co-owner of Bou’s, told councilors they’re working on moving to a larger location by June 1 but need time to raise the funds to do so.
“I know we’ve caused problems for hotel guests. We knew the music was loud, but as far as not responding to code enforcement, we’ve always responded in a timely manner — sometimes they didn’t get back to us,” Oliveira said.
She said her bouncers “take it upon themselves to address” issues but “as far as vandalism, it could be from elsewhere.”
“We do care. Everyone’s trying to bring us down because we’ve made mistakes. New Year’s 2013 we were over capacity. Now I personally count every night. We have counters. I know I messed up and have learned from it,” said Oliveira. “When we go in the bigger place we’ll have to apply for a liquor license. We’re renting space at the VFW; they no longer want to sell liquor and want to get back to their roots.”
“Everything takes time. I can’t just snap my fingers and have everything done,” she said.
Councilor Craig Green suggested establishing a dress code might be a good place to start. One of Bou’s most recent events was called an ABC (anything but clothes) party at which patrons were encouraged to wear anything from curtains to duct tape as costumes rather than traditional attire.
Councilors voted 5-0-1, with Councilor Dick Engels abstaining, to work with the owners on a plan of action, with all meeting to continue discussion on the matter on April 21.