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Selectmen delay vote on Mardi Gras permit

November 02, 2011
Selectman delayed a vote on the revocation of the Mardi Gras North entertainment permit during their meeting Wednesday, Oct. 26 in order to allow a public hearing at their next meeting.

They decided to delay their vote and give the management of the establishment time to build a case in their defense.

According to the selectmen, a Gilford Town Ordnance gives them the ability to revoke the permit if they feel it necessary.

According to Gilford Town Ordnance 38.7 regarding the entertainment permit application process, "The applicant shall be required to be in compliance at all times with any requirements of Federal and State Law or Local Ordinances of the town of Gilford that may be required," and "The applicant shall be required to attach a copy of their current and valid NH State Liquor License to the application at the time of its submission."

If selectmen find the management in violation of a town ordinance, or if officials revoke their liquor license, the selectmen said they have the ability to revoke their entertainment permit.

After the execution of a search warrant of Mardi Gras Tuesday, Oct. 18, Selectmen John O'Brien, Gus Benavides and Kevin Hayes toured the facility, accompanied by Town Administrator Scott Dunn, Police Chief Kevin Keenan, Fire Chief Stephen Carrier, Code Enforcement Officer David Andrade and Health Officer Sheldon Morgan.

After the tour, the selectmen returned to Town Hall for a special meeting, at which Benavides made a motion to "send a letter to the NH Liquor Commission requesting an immediate temporary suspension and permanent revocation of the liquor license issued to the property owner and liquor license holder– Willard Drew." The motion passed unopposed.

Currently, the entertainment permit and liquor license are for Kelsey's at the Grant under Willard Drew, the property-owner. Selectmen cited this in their letter to the Liquor Commission as a reason for the liquor license revocation, adding that Drew is not affiliated with Mardi Gras management, nor is he an employee; therefore, he has nothing to do with the business' sale of alcohol.

Selectmen also stated that, in their opinion, the facility did not meet mandatory requirements for food service. The cited the state of the kitchen, claiming "absolutely no signs of recent use in the preparation of food, nor was there any evidence that this establishment had any plates, dishes, eating utensils, pots and pans, food in refrigerators or food remnants in a condition that might otherwise be expected in a restaurant."

They also stated "numerous building, safety and electrical code violations that constituted a threat to public safety."

They concluded that the continued service of alcohol at Mardi Gras North was not in the best interest of the Gilford community, and requested the commission immediately suspend and eventually revoke the liquor license.

Several individuals representing Mardi Gras North attended the meeting, including Drew and attorney Matt Lahey.

Though the meeting was not yet opened to public input, the minutes reflect that the selectmen allowed Lahey to speak on behalf of the Mardi Gras management.

Lahey said he saw no reason for the selectmen to revoke the business' entertainment permit. He insisted that there was no evidence that members of the management were linked to drug-related activity, although several employees were arrested for felony charges, including unlawful possession and sale of controlled/narcotic drugs.

Lahey asked the selectmen for a written list of reasons they had for considering the revocation of the entertainment permit so the facility management could be better prepared to defend themselves.

O'Brien suggested they would have better information to present that information after the public hearing.

"I don't see anything that would justify revocation," said Lahey, insisting selectmen would essentially be closing a Gilford business.

Lahey further suggested that if selectmen were to close down every restaurant where drug transactions take place, there would be a lot of businesses closed.

O'Brien said they would take Lahey's request for a list of reasons to revoke the entertainment permit into consideration.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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