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Orange selectmen renew liquor license with caveat

ORANGE — Selectmen have renewed a liquor license for Mike’s Place, which has been selling food and drinks to Orange residents and visitors for more than 50 years, despite concerns about its operations during the River Rat Race.

The vote followed discussion at a public hearing allowing neighbors and owners of the restaurant to speak to problems associated with the current license.

Town Administrator Diana Schindler told selectmen at their previous meeting that the current license does not follow state regulations set out by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

The license permits patrons to be served and drink alcohol on the entire one-acre lot of the restaurant’s property.

While state regulations allow outdoor seating for restaurants and bars serving alcohol, the service area must be visible to the bartender at all times. In addition, a fence, rope or other barricade must divide the area where people are drinking alcohol from the rest of the property.

Schindler said that former Chief of Police Brian Spear wrote selectmen several years ago, advising them not to grant a license for the entire property as it violated state laws and opened the door for neighborhood disturbances if patrons wandered into adjoining properties.

But Rhonda Bartlett, daughter of the restaurant’s owner Mike Cloukey, said Spear participated in discussions with the former selectmen that resulted in approval of the current license.

Former Selectman Richard Sheridan confirmed the former board concluded the conditions of the current license were appropriate provided the restaurant’s managers notified fire and police departments before they served alcohol outside on one-day events, and provided adequate supervision and barricades.

Bartlett said, “We just wanted to be in compliance during River Rat Day,” she said, in reference to the popular canoe race from Athol to Orange held each spring.

Bartlett said that Mike’s Place provides sufficient supervision of patrons who drink alcohol outside that day in order to watch the event, as the river runs along the back of the property. “We have two people on each side (of the property) … we even gave out bracelets last year … we’ve gotten so good at handling crowds.”

Schindler told selectmen at the previous meeting there had been at least one complaint from neighbors about patrons drinking outside. Selectman David Ames said on Monday the incident did not require a formal police report, but appeared in the department’s log book.

Bartlett said the incident was hearsay. “I was surprised … to hear my father’s name dragged through the mud” when she heard the issue discussed at the televised board meeting earlier this month. “A person has a right to be informed their name is going to be discussed — if you are discussing their reputation.”

To comply with state laws, selectmen said barricades and proper supervision must be in place whenever patrons are served alcohol outside, not just during large one-day events.

“I hope other establishments are treated in the same manner,” Bartlett said, “I don’t see barricades” set up around the outside drinking areas of other Orange restaurants.

Selectboard Chairwoman Kathy Reinig said the barricades do not need to be solid walls, but can be ropes or other markers that indicate the area where alcohol is served. Bartlett agreed to put up some sort of marker.

Reinig added the barriers must enclose any areas where patrons are drinking on the property.

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