Naples to develop complaint process for beer gardens

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Local beer gardens stand on status quo ground.

The Town of Naples will create a formal complaint form, and develop a process for keeping records of those complaints about noise levels and other issues that stem from beer gardens.

The Naples Board of Selectmen held public hearings on Monday, and the objective was to bring into compliance those establishments that permit liquor outdoors but hadn’t submitted paperwork for beer gardens.

“Now, we are being told from the state that the town has to okay it before the state does. We were going on the assumption the state was okaying the beer gardens, and the town didn’t need to,” Chairman Christine Powers said.

By law, each business owner must come before the board on an annual basis to re-apply for a liquor license. At that time, business owners must submit diagrams and descriptions of any outdoor venues where patrons can drink. Also, a public hearing is conducted prior to the board's vote on the liquor license.

Discussions about noise complaint forms were the by-product of an agenda item two weeks ago, and the topic was revisited on Monday.

“The complaints have to be made to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. They hold those records,” according to resident Bobbi Cribby, who owns a home near Bray’s Brewpub and Eatery. “The next call should be to your selectmen, whether it’s at 1 a.m. or the next morning. The town has a large role in this.”

Powers said that the board and town officials are learning about the protocol for liquor license holders to legally expand beer gardens, and how to provide a process for complaints connected to the beer gardens.

“We are getting educated about this, too,” Powers said. “We didn’t have a formal complaint process. We will now.”

Along with pledging to move forward with an established complaint process, the board planned to invite State Liquor License Inspector Larry Sanborn to a future meeting (most likely in September) to answer questions about liquor licenses.

Business owners as well as residents living near drinking establishments agreed an official and consistent complaint process could be beneficial.

The owner of Redneck Lounge, Sid Shane, asked if business owners could be kept abreast of complaints coming in from the community.

“If it is a small issue, we could fix it. I still think we should be allowed to. I’ve had noise complaints, and gone to the homes all around my bar, gone down the roads,” Shane said. “If there is a problem I need to know sooner than later.”

Shane added that he didn’t want to hear about a noise complaint a year after it occurred, when applying for his liquor license, and have to try to remember what happened on that particular date.

Naples resident Sam Merriam lives in the neighborhood near Bray’s. He said year after year, noise complaints made by residents were not mentioned during the liquor-license application process.

“It casts doubt among us how record keeping was going on. We began to lose faith that complaining does any good,” he said. “Perhaps, the town manager could address the person who complained, saying that establishment was notified. It would give confidence back to the person who is complaining, and allow the business to make changes.”

Merriam said he wanted local businesses to be successful, but a good night’s sleep is required for him to be successful at his job with Great Northern Docks.

“We are just not getting blissful sleep during their money-making season,” he said.

“It’s an old issue for private neighborhoods that are close to businesses,” Cribby said.

Cribby encouraged her neighbors to be more proactive this summer in making complaints about noise levels that are a direct result of drinking establishments. She suggested filing complaints not only about beer gardens, but about the closing-time crowd that increases outdoor noise levels.

“A business has a responsibility on their premises at closing time,” Cribby said. “That’s part of being a good neighbor. The selectmen of our town can do more for public welfare.”

“It’s my understanding that the town, the municipality, can make the decision how late an exterior (outdoor) bar can serve liquor,” added Cribby, who had a phone conversation with Sanborn. “He (Larry Sanborn) said don’t mistake that the noise piece has to be addressed. This is summer number 10 for us. At 2 and 3 in the morning, children are waking. The town has total decision-making power as to whether an outdoor bar serves after 10 at night.”

Cribby owns a home in the residential area near Bray’s Brewpub and Eatery, an establishment which features a beer garden and has existed in town for 10 years. She bought her property in 1979.

Bray’s has an outdoor liquor license and has a bar located outside, as opposed to other establishments in Naples that allow customers to carry drinks purchased indoors to an enclosed out-of-doors site.

Both Bray’s and Tail of The Lake had submitted sketches of beer gardens earlier this year when each business re-applied for its liquor permit.

Monday’s public hearings were for the following businesses: Redneck Lounge, Black Bear Café, the Galley and the American Legion. Previously, when those establishments applied for liquor licenses, outdoor drinking space was not addressed.

The board unanimously approved all four liquor license amendments.

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