Ballard’s and town reach agreement
The Town of New Shoreham and Ballard’s have reached a settlement agreement in the matter of the liquor and outdoor entertainment license suspensions imposed by the town on August 22, 2022 at a show cause hearing attended by over 100 members of the public and went on for about eight hours. The suspensions came as a result of problems that occurred throughout the summer at the beach venue, culminating on August 8, Victory Day in Rhode Island, when Ballard’s hosted a Reggae Festival. Each license was suspended for 14 days.
Immediately, Ballard’s appealed the suspensions to the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, the avenue of appeal for liquor license violations, and to the Rhode Island Superior Court regarding the outdoor entertainment license.
The DBR agreed to Ballard’s request for a stay on the liquor license, stating that the problems that arose on August 8, which extended out into the ferry boarding and parking areas, and then onto the boat itself, were a result of the draw of the entertainment, and not because of the service of alcohol.
The Superior Court also granted a stay, but it imposed its own restrictions on Ballard’s, including a prohibition against live music and requiring increased security at the venue. Appeals by Ballard’s were immediately forthcoming, and the matter has been an agenda item at several meetings of the New Shoreham Town Council where it has been discussed in closed session.
The settlement agreement that was signed on November 30 paved the way for the renewal of Shoreham Inc.’s (doing business as Ballard’s Inn) licenses for the coming year that started December 1, 2022.
Among other measures, the agreement stipulates that Ballard’s “shall not (i) host any music festivals or similar large-scale live music events, (ii) have more than one band playing outdoors at any time, (iii) have more than two bands playing outdoors on any day, or (iv) have any entertainment that is reasonably likely to attract an audience that would exceed the capacity limitations at Ballard’s property (e.g. a nationally known band).”
The agreement requires that the State Fire Marshal be allowed to examine Ballard’s property to determine what that maximum capacity should be. Last summer, during the Reggae Fest, the beach was so crowded that patrons could barely move, and a fence was toppled by concert-goers trying to get in by bypassing the front doors.
There are also requirements as to the type and amount of security Ballard’s is required to have at various times, as well as a police presence to be made up of two off-duty police officers, on weekends and holidays, or at other times during the “season” as deemed necessary by Ballard’s director of security. Ballard’s shall bear the cost of the police details, including expenses incurred by the officers.
Additionally, the agreement acknowledges that retired Police Chief Christopher Lee has been and shall remain as director of security “or a comparable replacement if necessary,” and spells out additional security training measures. It also states: “Ballard’s will not retain in any position its former Director of Security who held such position as of August 8, 2022.”
There are also provisions regarding Ballard’s privately contracted emergency medical technicians that require Ballard’s to contact the New Shoreham Police Department dispatchers any time it needs to take a patient to the Block Island Medical Center.
The settlement agreement, signed by all of the parties on Wednesday, Nov. 30, upholds the license suspensions that Steve Filippi, president of Shoreham Inc. appealed to the court and DBR, but reduces the 14-day suspension period to “time previously served.”
Ballard’s also agreed to “dismiss the appeals pending before the Rhode Island Supreme Court and the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation.”
After the deal was signed, First Warden-elect Keith Stover said: “One thing that gets overlooked [in these negotiations] is the importance of attorneys working in good faith.”
“I appreciate those fine words,” said Ballard’s attorney, Brian LaPlante, adding praise for the town’s attorneys Nick Solitro and James Callaghan for all their hard work, which consumed both days and nights. “We look forward to a positive working relationship.”
Second Warden Sven Risom said to LaPlante: “I hope we don’t see each other again...except for a friendly visit.”
Another matter of concern to the town is open container violations. New Shoreham Police Lieutenant Paul Deane, a 25-year veteran of the force, was consulted as to whether open container violations were increasingly a problem.
“The last couple of years it’s risen to the point where everyone thinks it’s okay,” said Deane. “It's bothersome.” He added that while the department could issue citations, there isn’t “any mechanism in place to...make [liquor license holders] accountable.” As far as carding and monitoring people leaving establishments with drinks, he said, “Some are great...others do nothing.”
It’s a problem that extends far beyond any one business, and the Town Council, acting in its capacity of Board of License Commissioners, had consulted with attorneys to see if it was within their powers to set conditions. Hearing that it was, a motion was approved to impose a condition on all liquor licenses issued by the New Shoreham Board of License Commissioners that “the licensed establishment shall ensure patrons do not leave the premises with open containers of alcohol. The breach of this condition may, after a hearing, result in action against the license including, fine, suspension, revocation, and/ or other penalties.”
“I don’t think it says anything that isn’t already in the law,” said Commissioner Martha Ball.
“I think it’s a great mechanism, another tool,” said Deane.