By Mary Macedo, Neighb News Correspondent
At a special meeting on Wednesday, 8/30, the Fairhaven Selectboard met with representatives of EJ’s Restaurant about violations back in July, and met with owners of Taylor’s Seafood about the renewal of their Aquaculture license.
The Selectboard opened the evidentiary hearing for EJ’s Restaurant, Bar and Grill, making it known that the hearing was not open for public discussion. Chairperson Robert Espindola stated the violations against EJ’s as serving alcohol to minors, patrons smoking marijuana in public, and exceeding the capacity of the building.
EJ’s attorney John Markey represented restaurant owner Cathy Melanson at the meeting. Mr. Markey explained that they felt there was no need to conduct an evidentiary hearing because the Melansons agree that the whole incident back in July should have never occurred.
This past July, EJ’s held a private event at their restaurant that ended in more than a dozen police officers breaking up what turned into an over-capacity party with more than 400 people on the property, according to police. With underage drinking, smoking, and excessive noise, the police had intervened. With overly intoxicated patrons, a few people resisted and became violent with police, resulting in at least one arrest and multiple violations against the restaurant.
Selectboard member Dan Freitas asked Mr. Markey who was responsible on that night.
Mr. Markey explained that Ms. Melanson was not there on that evening, but another manager of the restaurant was there and lost control of the rowdy party.
Mr. Markey explained that the restaurant has been closed and will remain closed. The Melansons are already in talks with Drew Tillett, the former owner of the Ice Chest, for him lease the property.
The Melansons and Mr. Tillett plan to have the lease done by November. Mr. Tillett has plans in place to rename the facility Cleary’s Pub and to do minor renovations like painting and moving around furniture.
Mr. Tillett also said he plans to come in front of the board in the next two or three weeks to transfer the liquor license from EJ’s to Cleary’s.
Mr. Espindola asked if the Melansons will still be a part of the business after they lease it to Mr. Tillett. Mr. Markey assured the board that Mr. Tillett will have 100% control over the business once the lease is complete.
Mr. Freitas explained that due to the business being closed and the transferring of the lease the board’s “hands are tied” in regards to punishment for the violations.
“We should set an example for the future,” Freitas said.
“We are deeply disappointed that something like this took place in town,” Mr. Espindola said.
With EJ’s already closed the board had a difficult decision to make regarding the punishment for the violations.
Mr. Markey explained that until the lease is transferred in November the Melansons still have two more events scheduled to take place at EJ’s, a baby shower and a reunion.
Mr. Markey said that the Melansons are willing to voluntarily give up their license and come in front of the board to get the license approved for one day for each event they have scheduled.
The board made a motion stating that both the Selectboard and the Melansons confirm that the violations occurred. The motion continued stating that the owners will surrender their license until the transfer of lease, which must occur by December 1 and if the license owner wants to hold events at the location until than they must come in front of the board for approval for each event.
The motion passed unanimously.
In another matter, the board met with the owners of Taylor’s Cultured Seafood about the renewal of their aquaculture license.
Mr. Freitas explained that they got all the clarifications that were necessary to renew the license.
Marine Resources Committee chairperson Frank Coelho questioned how many acres Taylor’s seafood was using, whether it was 35 acres, 44 acres, or 45 acres due to a bumper around the area.
Harbormaster Tim Cox explained that Taylor’s Seafood is using 44 acres and that the buffer zone does not need to be included.
Although the license renewal was for one year, Taylor’s attorney, Stuart Rapp, explained that it takes 2-3 years to produce a sellable product, and asked for a longer lease term.
Mr. Freitas said he felt that Taylor’s Seafood has been doing a good enough job to allow them to renew for three years.
“They go above and beyond,” Mr. Cox said.
Mr. Cox explained that Taylor’s Seafood employees have done everything the town has asked.
The board voted unanimously to renew the licens for three years.
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