Gaming Commission Moves Quickly to Clear Encore of Lawsuit Charges

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) moved quickly last week to investigate claims in a class-action lawsuit against Encore Boston Harbor, and then announced on Thursday they felt Encore’s practices were appropriate – that the lawsuit “conflates” state regulations on Blackjack.

“We reviewed the claim and have preliminarily found Encore to be in compliance for payouts on Blackjack,” said Bruce Band, assistant director of the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB). “The word ‘conflate’ is exactly right here. Six-to-five is used for two things. One is a variation sub-game of Blackjack that so far hasn’t been dealt anywhere in Massachusetts. Six-to-five is also a type of payout for someone playing standard Blackjack if they hit a Blackjack. You need to know what they odds are at that table if they hit a Blackjack. That’s what that is.”

The lawsuit was filed by Attorney Joshua Garick on behalf of Richard Schuster of New York in a class-action format. Schuster had played at the Encore and alleged that they were playing the Blackjack game wrong, and that they were withholding change from patrons at the electronic redemption machines.

In terms of the change machines, Band said the machines at Encore payout dollar amounts, and then dispense certificates for the change. Those certificates are good for one year and can be claimed at the cashier. However, they can also be used at another slot machine.

Band said they felt that the redemption machines were operating at standard procedures for a casino, but they suggested a sign be placed on the machine making it clear what is happening with the change.

“What we did find was it probably wasn’t stated clearly enough so they have added a sign that clearly expresses this on the machine,” said Band.

Both claims, one on Blackjack and one on the change machines, were refuted by the MGC. Commissioners assured everyone that there is a state process for unclaimed winnings, and none of that money remains or stays with Encore. It is kept in a type of escrow account, and then turned over to the state at the end of one year.

All of it was much to the delight of Encore officials.

“I feel the lawsuit is completely without merit, and I was particularly interested in the issue about the redemption of the slot tickets,” said President Bob DeSalvio. “There were allegations in there that for some reason they thought we might be rounding to our favor. It is completely, utterly false. Every customer gets every penny they deserve at Encore Boston Harbor. Never would we engage in a practice that would actually keep any of a customer’s money they deserve. There is no way, shape or form any customer is not getting exactly what they should get. Nor is there any opportunity at the end of the year for any unclaimed monies to come back to the property.”

DeSalvio also said emphatically that Encore is following all of the Blackjack rules, and the MGC agreed with that in its report.

“The claims in the lawsuit are false and unfounded,” he said. “They went back and looked at our procedures. They went back and looked at our games. They went back and looked at the felt on the tables. What they found is they are all exactly as they should be. There’s really no issue at all on Blackjack. None. Zero. The rules are the rules and we are following the rules exactly and that’s what you heard the Commission say.”

But Attorney Garick said he wasn’t pleased with the ruling by the MGC, and that’s why his client will take the matter before an impartial judge.

“It’s our interpretation of the regulations is that the game of Blackjack does not allow an eight-deck shoe where they pay 6-to-5 odds on the Blackjack,” he said. “We intend to fully raise all these issues to a judge rather than in a Commission where the inspector and the casino representatives are sitting at the same table.”

DeSalvio said they are going to seriously consider putting some electronic redemption machines on the floor that have the ability to dispense change. He said they made a customer-based decision early on to only put out machines that dispensed dollars. He said customers – especially at high-volume times – would rather not wait for a machine to be filled with pennies to get their dollar winnings.

“We will go back and take a look at having certain units on the floor that would make it more convenient to get the change,” he said. “Understand, the reason we did it this way was actually for customer convenience because if you are standing in front of one of those redemption units and it was to run out of pennies, and you had to wait 30 or 40 minutes, I’ll be you would be more upset about having to wait for 5 cents or 15 cents because that machine will lock up until it’s refilled with coin. The reason we did it was for customer service. If I can add another option to make it even more convenient for customers, I’m happy to do so. I’ll certainly take a look at that.”

Garick said they were happy the Commission and Encore paid attention to the suit, and that they were happy that some changes – like the change machines – were being considered.

“We’re certainly happy they have heeded the issues addressed in our lawsuit and have made some changes to the procedures they have,” he said. “I think that indicates they knew that there was some issues with the way they were dispensing change to customers. Frankly, I think this idea that people don’t want to wait for change is kind of a cop out. If I went to a table game and had $9.90 and the table minimum was $10, well they would wait for me to find that extra 10 cents…At this point the money is maintained by the casino. The regulations do require that after one year the money is paid to the state. We’re aware of that, but that doesn’t mean the consumer should be out that money that belongs to them.”

Garick said they didn’t plan to sue the MGC, and he said they did not have a court date yet.

DeSalvio said their attorneys would be responding to the suit “post haste.”

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Lawsuit Filed Against Encore

A class-action lawsuit filed Monday in Middlesex Superior Court on behalf of a New York man is accusing Encore Boston Harbor of not following the state’s Blackjack rules when it comes to variations on the game – in particular the ‘6 to 5’ variation.

A second piece of that suit alleges that electronic kiosks for redeeming winnings at the casino were withholding change, rounding down to the lowest dollar amount for the payment.

Encore, in a statement, denied the accusations.

And the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) said it is reviewing the allegations.

“The MGC is aware of the lawsuit and reviewing its content to determine next steps,” said MGC Spokesperson Elaine Driscoll.

Encore Spokesperson Rosie Salisbury said they have followed all of the state’s rules for Blackjack and gaming since opening.

“Since opening, Encore Boston Harbor follows the Massachusetts Gaming Commission regulations for blackjack payouts,” she said on Monday.

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of A. Richard Schuster of New York as a class action for all betters since opening, and it delves into the ins and outs of Blackjack and all of its variations. Schuster allegedly visited the casino and played on July 11.

Specifically, the suit claims there have been problems with how the ‘6 to 5’ variation of the game has been run at Encore. The ‘6 to 5’ statistically can benefit the house, and it has been the primary Blackjack game offered on most occasions in the gaming floor of Encore, with the standard ‘3 to 2’ game sometimes closed off and located at the back of the gaming floor.

The ‘6 to 5’ term refers to the odds for the payout on a Blackjack, so that a $100 winning bet pays $120.

Part of Schuster’s suit indicates that the casino is only paying out the ‘6 to 5’ odds on a Blackjack, and should be paying out ‘3 to 2’ odds according to the state law governing the game.

That law is not for the novice, and will require a careful review by experts at the MGC.

However, the rules do state odds that must be paid. Most wagers in the game are to be paid out at a 1-to-1 ratio. The payouts change, however, for a Blackjack – which is defined as “an ace and any card having a point value of 10 dealt as the initial two cards to a player or a dealer except that this shall not include an ace and a ten point value card dealt to a player who has split pairs.”

That payout is what is at odds.

The MGC rules for Blackjack read that a Blackjack played at a ‘6 to 5’ can pay out at that ratio.

“All winning wagers…shall be paid at odds of 1 to 1 with the exception of standard blackjack which shall be paid at odds of 3 to 2, or at odds of 6 to 5 for the 6 to 5 blackjack variation,” read the regulations.

Also at stake is the numbers of decks of cards used in games of ‘6 to 5.’ It is alleged the casino was using more than two decks, which some say is the standard for that game. However, the rules at the MGC are not entirely clear, stating that a minimum of one or two decks must be used. Nothing seems to state that there is a maximum number of decks for that variation.

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, the minimum number of decks used to play blackjack shall be…one or two, if the 6 to 5 blackjack variation is offered,” read the regulations.

However, in a totally different subsection regarding how to play ‘6 to 5’ Blackjack, there seems to be an expectation that no more than two decks would be used – and that they have to be dealt from the dealer’s hand and not using a dealing machine.

“The dealer shall remove the shuffled deck or decks from the automated shuffling device, and shall place the single deck or two stacked decks of cards in either hand,” read the state rules. “Once the dealer has chosen the hand in which he or she will hold the cards, the dealer shall use that hand whenever holding the cards during that round of play. The cards held by the dealer shall at all times be kept in front of the dealer and over the table inventory container.”

There are also rules in that section about whether the cards in that variation are to be dealt up or facedown. The lawsuit does challenge that practice of how the game is dealt as well.

Much of the allegations are very detailed, and will require careful review by both a judge and the MGC. What is particularly at stake, it would appear, is whether or not the state’s rules conform to the standards of such games of chance in other parts of the country and world.

The MGC did not say if there were other such complaints about the Blackjack rules in the Springfield MGM casino – the only other venue in the state where Blackjack is allowed.

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Roll On: MGC Clears Wynn Resorts

Despite fines, troubling behavior identified, MGC allows casino, Maddox to move forward for opening

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), despite finding a troubling pattern in the Wynn Resorts leadership in the past and present, agreed to let the casino operators remain in control of their Everett project – clearing the way for a planned June opening with licenses, and CEO Matt Maddox, intact.

The decision came down on Tuesday evening after more than two weeks of deliberation by the MGC Commissioners. Those deliberations had followed an intense week of hearings April 2-4 at the South Boston Convention Center, as well as a year-long investigation by the MGC. The 54-page decision laid out the stipulations of the decision, including a record-setting $35 million punishment for the company and a $500,000 punishment for CEO Matt Maddox – who remained suitable by a majority Commission vote that was not unanimous.

The $35 million fine was far larger – nearly double – the fine levied by the Nevada Gaming and Control Board in February when they fined Wynn $20 million for similar breaches there. At the time, that was a record-setting penalty.

The great silver lining for the Wynn organization, however, was the first finding in the written report, which determined that no one in the Wynn organization intentionally provided false or misleading information to the MGC in 2013.

“…the Commission has determined that Wynn MA LLC, Wynn Resorts Limited, Matthew Maddox, Elaine Wynn and Patricia Mulroy remain suitable, subject to fines and conditions set forth in this decision, and all new qualifiers are deemed suitable,” read the decision. “While the Commission did not find substantial evidence that the company or any qualifier willfully provided false or misleading information to the Commission (during the licensing process) in 2013, the Commission did find numerous violations of controlling statutes and regulations largely pertaining to a pervasive failure to properly investigate…and to notify the Commission about certain allegations of wrongdoing.

“The Commission is deeply troubled by the circumstances of these findings,” it continued.

“Specifically, the corporate culture of the founder-led organization led to disparate treatment of the CEO in ways that left the most vulnerable at grave risk. While the Company has made great strides in altering that system, this Commission remains concerned by the past failures and deficiencies,” continued the commissioners’ decision.

Despite being troubled, the MGC indicated that it had decided it was in everyone’s best interest to move forward with the execution of the Region A gaming license in Everett.

“Given our findings, it is now in the interest of the Commonwealth that the gaming licensee move forward in establishing and maintaining a successful gaming establishment in Massachusetts,” read the report from the Commissioners. “One of the key metrics by which we will measure that success will be the overall well-being, safety, and welfare of the employees. A second but equally important metric is the importance of compliance and communication with the regulator. This penalty is designed to guarantee these practices.”

To help ensure future compliance and to punish for past transgressions, the Commission imposes the following penalties and conditions:

•The Commission will assess a $35 million fine on Wynn Resorts.

•Wynn Resorts shall maintain the separation of Chair and CEO for at least the term of the license (15 years).

•At Wynn’s expense, the Commission, as more fully described in the decision, will select an independent monitor to conduct a full review and evaluation of all policies and organizational changes adopted by the Company as part of the Adjudicatory record.

•The Board of Directors shall provide the Commission timely reports of all Directors’ attendance records of both Board and assigned Committee meetings.

•Wynn MA, LLC shall train all new employees on the Preventing Harassment and Discrimination Policy within three months of opening.

•Any civil or criminal complaints or other actions filed in any court or administrative tribunal against a qualifier shall be reported to the Commission immediately upon notice of the action.

•The Commission will assess a $500,000 fine on Wynn CEO Matthew Maddox.

•The Board of Directors shall engage an executive coach and any additional necessary resources to provide the coaching and training to Mr. Maddox focused on but not limited to (i) leadership development, (ii) effective and appropriate communication for internal, company-wide reporting and messaging, (iii) enhanced sensitivity to and awareness of human resource issues arising in complex workplace environments that, without limitation, relate to diversity (including disability), implicit bias, hostile work environments, inherent coercion, sexual harassment and assault, human trafficking and domestic violence and (iv) team building and meaningful collaboration.

“Ensuring public confidence in the integrity of the gaming industry and the strict oversight of the gaming establishments through rigorous regulation is our principal objective,” said Chair Cathy Judd-Stein in a statement. “Our licensees will be held to the highest standards of compliance, including an obligation to maintain their integrity. The law of Massachusetts affords the Commission significant breadth in our decision making. With that comes an equally significant duty of fairness. We are confident that we have struck the correct balance and met our legal and ethical burdens.”

The $35 million fine will be accompanied by a series of conditions, including an independent monitor to review and evaluate the company’s adherence to new and existing policies.

Maddox was levied a personal fine, and his suitability was confirmed by a majority vote that was not unanimous, the MGC said. The fine, they said, came from his “clear failure to require an investigation about a specific spa employee complaint brought to his attention.”

That complaint came from Hotel Operations Director Brian Gullbrants – now an employee of Encore in Everett – and the infamous “sensual massage” requested by Steve Wynn and his new wife in 2013 at the company’s Las Vegas resort spa.

That said, the Commission did acknowledge that Wynn Resorts had made voluminous changes to their corporate culture and structure – something that was hammered home for hours upon hours by the Wynn team during the MGC hearings.

The Commission concludes “[t]hese changes to the company’s philosophy, training, and operations show a new found commitment and focus on all levels of employees, which combined with the ongoing successful business operations, continue to demonstrate that Wynn is likely to be a successful operator in Everett,” read the decision.

Despite that determination, there was an undercurrent of “troubled” findings repeatedly spelled out in the report. Primarily, that related to information about settlements regarding Steve Wynn’s conduct in the 2013 licensing process.

The report said most of the time, the information withheld came at the advice of legal counsel, but that advice should not have been followed.

“One of the troublesome undercurrents driving this matter is that disclosure of information was often withheld reportedly on the advice of legal counsel, both in-house and outside,” read the report. “All persons involved should have known better.”

That troubling undercurrent also was expressed in the lengthy analysis of Maddox’s qualifier status. While Maddox was allowed to remain as head of the company, the decision was not unanimous – meaning that some on the Commission believed he shouldn’t remain and voted against him. However, they found that his shortcomings were due to incompetence rather than suitability issues, and they required that he take training classes on how to lead the company.

“Mr. Maddox presents a unique case given his longevity with the company, exposure to information pertaining to the alleged wrongdoings and settlements, and current role as CEO,” read the report.

“The Commission concluded that Mr. Maddox has, at critical junctures, demonstrated questionable judgment and other considerable shortcomings in many facets of his responsibilities as CFO, President and CEO,” it continued. “The majority of the Commission determined, however, that these shortcomings bear primarily on his competence, not his suitability…These shortcomings are largely not matters of honesty, integrity, good character or reputation…”

One of the most telling parts of the report was the Preamble at the very beginning, where it was apparent the Commission deliberated at length about the matter – and from the gut. In the end, though, it felt it had rendered justice.

“We are confident that we have struck the correct balance and met our legal and ethical burdens,” it read.

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MGC still Deliberating in Encore Boston Harbor Decision

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is still deliberating amongst its members more than two weeks after closing hearings into the Wynn Resorts/Encore Boston Harbor suitability determination.

The hearings attracted hundreds of eyes and a great deal of media as well, but since that time, not much has happened outside of closed doors.

A spokesman told the paper that deliberations continue and a very public unveiling of the decision would take place after that.

There is no timeline right now as to when that decision would be made public. That decision includes whether or not Encore keeps its casino license, who in the Wynn organization will remain a qualifier, and what new members will be deemed qualified by the MGC.

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Chelsea Walk Pub Hit With Long Suspension

After viewing multiple surveillance videos of patrons falling off stools, being overserved, urinating in public, getting groped, and laid out on the sidewalk by the front door after closing time, the Licensing Commission last week suspended the Chelsea Walk Pub’s liquor license for 10 weeks.

The attorney for the Pub argued that the Broadway bar has avoided violations in the past. But for Commission members, the multiple incidents brought before it at its April 3 meeting were serious enough to warrant the harsh judgment.

The Licensing Commission found the Chelsea Walk Pub violated City ordinances by overserving patrons, selling liquor to an intoxicated person, creating a noise or disorderly disturbance, and failing to provide video surveillance. The majority of the violations resulted from incidents responded to by the Police Department late last November.

In a letter to the Licensing Commission, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino urged the commission not to take the reported violations lightly.

“A liquor license is a privilege and not a right,” the City Manager stated.

The majority of the April 3 hearing revolved around the showing of video surveillance footage from a number of the incidents.

Police highlighted one patron at the end of the bar who had three drinks in front of him before stashing an unopened beer in his jacket while the bartender wasn’t looking.

Meanwhile, police pointed out that at the other end of the bar, a woman sat with two pitchers of beer in front of her with no one else drinking from the mugs. In addition, the video showed the woman encouraging another patron to put his hand down her shirt and grope her breast.

Police Captain Keith Houghton said both incidents violated the city alcohol serving ordinances.

Attorney Jeffrey Rosario Turco, representing the Pub, put up a defense to the evidence, noting several times that the patrons who were alleged to have been overserved seemed steady on their feet and not intoxicated.

“With all due respect, that woman allowed a man to go down her shirt with two pitchers of beer in front of her,” said City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher. “There are implications all over the place.”

Additional video and evidence showed a patron leaving the bar and urinating outside on the sidewalk and a patron weaving into the street before being spotted by a police officer.

Licensing Commission member Roseann Bongiovanni was unmoved by Turco’s “not swaying” defense when it came to video of one patron who left the bar then went back in after being allegedly overserved.

“He’s leaning up against the way, that’s why he’s not swaying,” said Bongiovanni. “That’s some good evidence you have there.”

Most damning was an incident that showed several patrons and a bartender struggling for nearly 10 minutes to carry an alleged intoxicated patron out the door after closing time. Once the man was laid on the sidewalk, the bartender went back inside and locked the front door of the bar.

“The bartender quickly closed the door and leaves him out flat, leaving him pretty much to us,” said Houghton.

Turco did not dispute the evidence in that incident, but said that the bartender in the video had been fired.

Chelsea Walk Pub owner Angela Palmieri said the main problem has been that her staff has not stepped up.

“They don’t listen to what I tell them to do,” she said.

While the Pub hasn’t come before the Licensing Commission in recent memory for violation, Bongiovanni said it has largely been because there weren’t City resources to police the establishment before. She said the Chelsea Walk Pub has a long history of shenanigans.

“There have been so many instances at the Chelsea Walk Pub,” she said. “These are just the ones you got caught for; it is a disgrace to the city.”

In addition to the 10-week liquor license suspension, the Licensing Commission also voted to reduce the bar’s operating hours from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. to noon to 10 p.m.

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License Commission Approves License for Carnival at Chelsea Commons

The carnival is coming to Chelsea.

On Wednesday, April 3, the Licensing Commission approved a four-day license for New Hampshire-based Fiesta Shows to hold a four-day carnival on the Chelsea Commons this spring.

During the short public hearing to approve the license, Chelsea Police Captain Keith Houghton said the City’s public safety agencies have never had an issue with Fiesta Shows. The company also runs events nearby in Revere and Lynn, among other communities.

At-Large City Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he’s had experience with Fiesta Shows owner John Flynn in the past, and that Flynn has always run a tight and secure ship with his shows. In addition, Avellaneda noted that Fiesta Shows will make a donation to the City’s summer jobs program.

Licensing Commissioner Roseann Bongiovanni said she did have some concerns about the carnival operating until 11 p.m., especially on Thursday night.

Flynn said while the license has the closing time at 11 p.m., festivities and rides typically wind down around 10 p.m., giving police time to sweep the area by 11 p.m. Music and amplification is usually shut down at 9 p.m., he added.

•In other business, the Commission denied a permit that would have allowed for Friday night social events at the Rincon Hondureno Function Hall at 194 Broadway. Commission members and City officials expressed concern that the social night would effectively turn the function hall into a nightclub.

•The Licensing Commission also approved a liquor license transfer for La Esquina Mariachi Restaurant at 170 Washington Ave., the former site of the Plaza Mexico restaurant.

The pastor and parishioners from the neighboring church expressed concerns about the new restaurant, given their experience in the past.

While the Commission approved the license, members asked that the owners are mindful of the past history at 170 Washington Ave.

“You need to be very conscious of the environment you are stepping into,” said Licensing Commission Chair Mark Rossi. “Please don’t disappoint us.”

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Licensing Commission Close to Vote on Marijuana Regulations

Licensing Commission Close  to Vote on Marijuana Regulations

With plans to host four recreational marijuana shops already at some phase of readiness in Chelsea, the Licensing Commission is nearing a final vote on regulations for special additional rules for those establishments.

On March 7, the Commission continued a public hearing on the regulations, focusing on the topics of application fees, locations of the pot shops, and security.

Commission Chair Mark Rossi said the Commission should be ready to take a final vote on the regulations at its meeting in early April.

The City is limited to four retail marijuana establishments.

Those shops will already be vetted heavily before they reach the Licensing Commission for final approval. Other approvals include a host agreement in place from the City and approved by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, as well as any necessary approvals from the City’s Zoning and Planning Boards.

Rossi said the Licensing Commission will grant the retail pot shop licenses in much the same manner as it does for liquor licenses.

One of the questions raised by an early draft of the Licensing Commission regulations was whether the Commission should limit the shops to one or two per voting district.

The City ordinance already limits the establishments to three zoning districts — Industrial, Shopping Center, and Business Highway zones.

By the end of last week’s hearing, there was general agreement among the commissioners that there would not be a restriction on how close the pot shops can be to one other.

City Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda agreed that was the right move on the issue.

“I would oppose any sort of restriction on the number of feet from one place to another,” he said. “We already have zoning in place in the city and we don’t need to add another layer to that; we don’t do it for other businesses.”

The Commission also agreed on a $500 application fee and $5,000 yearly renewal fee for the marijuana businesses.

While there were some questions about the Commission’s role in looking at security at the establishments, City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher noted that there are already strong security requirements from the state, and requirements are also written into the host agreements with the prospective businesses.

Commissioner Roseann Bongiovanni said she would still like to look at the host agreements to see how they address security before taking the final vote next month.

“I don’t think security is going to be an issue,” said Commissioner James Guido, adding it is more likely traffic that could cause some issues.

According to the proposed regulation, the Licensing Commission would not issue a license to anyone who has violated Licensing Commission rules and regulations in the past five years. All licenses are subject to zoning approval and state Cannabis Control Commission approval.

The operating hours for retail shops will be limited to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and all signage will have to be approved by the City, according to Fisher.

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Licensing Commission Disciplines Several Establishments

Licensing Commission Disciplines Several  Establishments

If one is looking to hit the local bars this Cinco de Mayo, the options are going to be a little more limited than usual.

At its March 7 meeting, the Licensing Commission disciplined two local restaurants for a variety of infractions that will result in them losing their liquor licenses for the Cinco de Mayo weekend on May 4 and 5. (The restaurant Cinco de Mayo in Chelsea was not disciplined or called to the Commission).

In addition to losing its liquor license for that weekend, the Commission voted to roll back Acapulco’s hours of operation indefinitely, forcing the Fifth Street establishment to close at 11 p.m. instead of 1 a.m.

The Acapulco punishment stems from an incident last November when a security worker at the restaurant struck a customer over the head with a police baton.

The Commission also enforced an hours rollback from 1 a.m. to 11 p.m. – along with the weekend suspension – for Bar La Cueva at 802 Broadway. That punishment was enforced for an incident where several patrons were overserved, as well as for past concerns about noise and unruly patrons at the bar.

In addition, Commission member James Guido requested a hearing next month to consider revoking Bar La Cueva’s entertainment licenses.

The attorney for Acapulco said the issue at his client’s establishment is systemic of a larger issue in the city, where security at bars is handled by companies that act almost as paramilitary or law enforcement agencies.

Several commissioners agreed that there is a larger issue that needs to be addressed in the city with bar and liquor establishment security, but noted that Acapulco deserved a more forceful discipline than simply firing its current security contractor.

“You say security is a problem, but you’ve had the same company for a decade,” Commissioner Roseann Bongiovanni said.

The issues at Bar La Cueva seemed to extend beyond the recent incident where two people were overserved, as several commissioners noted that there have been noise and unruly patron complaints at the bar for years.

In a letter, one neighbor stated that the “karaoke singing by drunks is terribly loud and they overserve their patrons.”

John Dodge, the attorney representing the bar, said for the incident in question, his clients acted responsibly and asked the patrons who appeared to be intoxicated to leave.

But Bongiovanni noted that the bar has been a problem in the past, including racking up a 14-day liquor license suspension about two years ago.

“They have been a complete nuisance and annoyance to the neighborhood; you can roll your eyes all you want, counselor,” she said to Dodge.

Both the bars got off relatively easy compared to Fine Mart, a liquor and convenience store at 260 Broadway. The Commission suspended the store’s liquor license for a total of six weeks for three offenses, including an incident where an employee struck a woman who was intoxicated in the store, for selling nips after the enactment of the City’s nip ban, and for the sale of alcohol to a minor.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino, an ardent supporter of the City’s ban on 50 ml bottles of alcohol, said there needs to be consequences for businesses that violate the ordinance.

“The ban has been important in the city’s efforts to try to make Broadway a more attractive place to shop and dine,” Ambrosino said. “We’ve spent a lot of money to make it a better place. Having the nip ban in place is an important part of that. “(Fine Mart) has a prominent place in the corridor and has to comply with its license.”

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Dealing with Details: License Commission Works out the Logistics of Marijuana Shops

Dealing with Details: License Commission Works out the Logistics of Marijuana Shops

The Licensing Commission has continued a hearing on special additional rules for marijuana establishments to its March meeting.

The commission opened the public hearing at its meeting on Thursday, Jan. 17.

While the hearing did not generate much controversy, commissioners did agree that they wanted more time to consider several issues, including language limiting where retail marijuana shops can be concentrated, and the amount the city will charge for application fees.

“I’d like to see more research and see what nearby cities have done and what their challenges are,” said commission member Roseann Bongiovanni.

Currently, there are three applications in the works for retail marijuana shops in the city. The city will allow a maximum of four retail licenses.

According to the proposed regulation, the Licensing Commission will not issue a license to anyone who has violated Licensing Commission rules and regulations in the past five years. All licenses are subject to zoning approval and state Cannabis Control Commission approval.

The operating hours for retail shops will be limited to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and all signage will have to be approved by the city, according to City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher.

“We are trying to be a little more restrictive now so we don’t have to clean up after the fact, like with liquor licenses,” said Fisher.

The section of the proposed regulations that garnered the most discussion among commission members was one which would limit the concentration of where retail marijuana shops can be located.

Fisher noted that the language included in the draft regulations, limiting retail shops to one per voting district and not within 500 feet of another retail marijuana store, was not included by the legal department. She said it was included because it was a request made during a past public hearing on marijuana regulations.

“We already have a very small area in Chelsea, and retail shops are already restricted to three zones and can’t be within 500 feet of schools,” said Fisher. “It is already quite restrictive of where you can put a facility.”

The city will allow marijuana establishments in the Industrial, Shopping Center, and Business Highway zone.

Licensing Commission Chairman Mark Rossi said he’d like the commission to have more discretion over where facilities can be located.

“Our job is to factor in the input from the community and the licensees,” said Rossi.

Much like it does with liquor licenses, Rossi said the Licensing Commission will be getting input from the community, police and fire departments, and other city officials when it comes to making a final determination on issuing a marijuana license.

“This committee is uniquely situated to make that determination,” he said.

Commission member James Guido said he would like more information on limiting concentration in voting districts before making a final decision on the proposed regulation.

Rossi also said he had questions about the $5,000 application and annual renewal fee for marijuana establishments, stating he would like to see a higher number.

Rossi said the application fees and concentration of locations will be discussed when the hearing is continued at its March 7 meeting.

“This is a big issue that affects everyone,” he said.

•In other business, the Licensing Commission adjusted its penalty for Rincon Latinos restaurant at 373 Washington Ave. In December, the commission suspended the restaurant’s liquor license for eight days spread over four weekends for repeated instances of exceeding its capacity.

Last week, the commission agreed to suspend the license for two weekends in January, as well as for a five-day stretch during the week when a new handicap bathroom will be installed by the restaurant owners.

The new bathroom will allow Rincons Latinos to increase its capacity from 17 to 28 people, according to John Dodge, the attorney representing the owners.

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