By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,222)
It was clearly a bad day for the City of Portland on the first day of an appeal by Sangillo’s Tavern before the State’s Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations in which the 63-year old Tavern is seeking to have its liquor license reinstated after being denied by a 5-4 vote by the City Council earlier this year. (District 1 Councilor Kevin Donoghue, in whose district the iconic bar is located, voted against renewing the license.)
Under questioning by Tim Bryant, attorney for Sangillos, Lt. Gary Hutchinson of the Portland Police Department was forced to concede, reluctantly, that had he to do it all over again. he would not have categorized most of the roughly 25 cases against the Tavern as violations of State Statute. Incomplete and vague record keeping left Lt. Hutchinson to “conclude” pertinent details, which as Bryant reminded him repeatedly, was not based on “fact.” Other examples of plain misinformation were at the core of many of the reversals that Hutchinson was pressed to acknowledge – ultimately bringing into doubt the city’s case for refusing to renew the Tavern’s liquor license. Helping to unravel the city’s case against Sangillo’s was a very long paper trail making the Police Department vulnerable to all manner of mistakes. “Based on what happened today, I think Sangillo’s lawyers have done an excellent job of pointing out that nearly all of the incidents cited by the Portland Police Department either do not involve Sangillo’s patrons or employees and are not in violation of State law,” said Chris Busby, editor of “The Bollard” a weekly newspaper in the Greater Portland area. Busby attended the day-long hearing.
Witnesses for Sangillo’s were questioned by Severin Beliveau, founding partner for PretiFlaherty. Those witnesses included Father Michael Seady; State Rep. Diane Russell; and Maine State Senate President Justin Alfond among others. Additional witnesses included employees of the Tavern who said they live pay-check-to pay check and depend on this income to survive. Witnesses for the City included Lt Hutchinson, Ass’t Chief Vernon Mallach and Police Chief Michael Sauschuck. Testimony of the latter two did not additionally illuminate the case, since it was based on the prior testimony of Lt. Hutchinson.
At one point, Dana Sangillo, 30, Sangillo’s owner told the State panel that he’d be very concerned about calling the Portland Police Department when calls for assistance, as he’s expected to do, are used against the tavern Sangillo inherited the Tavern upon the death of his father. Three months ago, he moved back to Arundel after having lived and managed a bar in the Los Angeles area.
Left unresolved at the end of the hearing and to be decided tomorrow morning is the question of whether or not law-and-order City Councilor Ed Suslovic will be able to testify on behalf of the city. Attorney Bryant protested strenuously to this possibility since Suslovic was one of the five city councilors who voted against renewing the license originally. “No one from the Council should be allowed to testify,” Bryant told the State panel. Mayor Michael Brennan, who intended to testify for the city, was likewise refused that opportunity until the decision on whether it is “appropriate” for city councilors to testify in this case is made tomorrow morning by the State panel.
The State panel has up to 30 days to rule on the appeal by Sangillo’s Tavern. The two day hearing resumes tomorrow morning at 9:30 am in City Council Chambers at City Hall. It’s free and open to the public.