Thursday, August 7, 2008

No Bar For You

To borrow a couple phrases from City Councilor O'Hara and President Bush, what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is the soft bigotry of low expectations.

In other words, the Municipal Officers (a subcommittee of the City Council that includes all the councilors and the mayor) rejected Allen and Lynn Moores' proposal to re-open the Skybox Bar and Grill on Brown Street because, well, the bar would've been located on Brown Street. And Brown Streeters obviously cannot be trusted with an establishment selling alcohol in the vicinity.

Now, Westbrook's solons should be credited for being consistent, even if they are consistently wrong on this issue. They did, after all, echo their arbitrary rejection of Tom and Ellen Dores' request for a liquor license in March with an equally arbitrary rejection of the Moores' request for a liquor license on Monday.

However, that's where the councilors' consistency ends and their inconsistencies begin.

Westbrook's councilors, for example, approved the Moores' requests for a victualor's license, a billiards license, and a pinball license on Monday despite having rejected the Dores' requests for the those same licenses back in March. To be sure, the disparity would be understandable if the councilors had fewer concerns about the management effectiveness of the Moores than they did the Dores. But a lower level of confidence in the latter is not borne out in the dry councilors' repeated public statements that the rejections had to do with the tavern's location, not its owners.

Nevertheless, the councilors' greatest strike against consistent governance was not their puzzling approval for an assortment of one owner's licenses and the rejection of another's. Instead, the greatest head-scratcher is the unevenness with which they treat bars in Westbrook.

Skybox was shut down and remains dormant, the argument goes, because it is a nuisance and disrupts the peace and tranquility of our sleepy rural hamlet city. Yet Profenno's Bar and Grill, a bar whose patrons generated only four fewer complaints to the Westbrook Police--surely the best metric of a bar's mischief--than Skybox did between Febuary 2007 and February 2008, received approval for its liquor license on the very same night councilors rejected the Moores' request for a liquor license.

So where do City Councilors draw the line between a troublesome bar and a bar worthy of staying in business?

Brown Street, stupid.

- John C.L. Morgan

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