Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Notes on Official Harassment

(Editor's Note: Allen Moore is the co-owner of the Skybox Bar & Grill on Brown Street.)

On Monday, October 26, my wife and I will be attending another Westbrook City Council meeting at Westbrook High School's Room 114. This will be our fourth meeting with the City Council, and the City's attorney, Bill Dale, will be proposing a way to revoke licensing the Council never granted. This meeting appears to be only the latest example of the City harassing my wife and I, so I have decided to write this post as a way to set the record straight for our upcoming battle with the City of Westbrook.

The Beginnings of Our Troubles
In June 2008, I met with Mayor Bruce Chuluda and had meetings with the City explaining our intentions to reopen the Skybox Bar & Grill on Brown Street in Westbrook. In August 2008, the City Council granted all licensing to operate our business, except liquor and entertainment licenses. On a 3-3 vote, liquor and entertainment licensing were denied, even though we had done nothing wrong. The City's attorney, Bill Dale, explained our options. We could persuade a city councilor to change their mind, or we could appeal to the state liquor board. We chose to appeal to the state.

The state liquor board ruled with clear and convincing evidence that we were unjustifiably denied a liquor license by the City of Westbrook. The state ruled that, as new management, we deserved the right to operate and could not be held responsible for problems from prior management. The state granted us a license pending renovations on December 22, 2008.

Denial of Occupancy Permit
During a December 22, 2008 conversation with Lt. David Bowler of the Maine Department of Public Safety, we discussed issuance of the liquor license. At this time, I believed the turmoil with the City of Westbrook was over. However, Lt. Bowler informed me that when it came time for the city to issue a certificate of occupancy, the city was going to refuse. I was in disbelief.

After months of delay and thousands of dollars of investment, it appeared more harassment by the City of Westbrook was on the way. Sure enough, after non-cooperative attitudes from the City's fire inspector Chuck Garrett and the City's code enforcer, Richard Gouzie; after walls were built, torn down, and built again; and after hours of discussion over one sprinkler head that was 1" too close to a post that was later removed to pass the fire inspection, Richard Gouzie refused to issue an occupancy permit. Gouzie refused to issue an occupancy permit because he believed a change of use had occurred at the location at 212 Brown street, even though there was no documentation anywhere at City Hall to support his theory.

Gouzie's decision brought everything to a grinding halt. In order to move beyond the impasse, my wife and I had to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals. Due to the timing of events, we did not go before the board until March 2009. Fortunately, the Zoning Board of Appeals overturned Richard Gouzie's decision and ordered him to issue a certificate of occupancy. Our attorney has requested the findings of fact from the March 2008 Zoning Board of Appeals decision, but the City has failed to produce the documents.

The actions by the City at this point have cost us thousands of dollars in legal fees and seven months of good winter revenue.

Opening Day: March, 19 2009
It took so long to open due to hurdles from the City that our licensing was up for renewal April 1, 2009, less than one month after we opened for business. Standard procedure is for the City Clerk to issue renewal licensing automatically, unless the City Council requests to look at a licensing renewal. City Council President Brendan Rielly requested to see us.

After about one week of being open, the City Council denied all our licensing requests at the hearing. The reasoning given was an unsubstantiated telephone complaint about people in the vicinity of the Skybox received two days before the hearing occurred. During the hearing, the City Council asked their attorney if the rejection of bar's food service license would prevent an establishment from selling liquor under the state license. The City's attorney said yes.

At this point, after being harassed by the fire inspector, the code officer, and the City Council, my wife and I had no choice but to file a lawsuit against the City. We have been denied equal protection of the law through selective enforcement by City officials.

As the City spread propaganda about our establishment, they appeared determined to shut us down no matter what it takes. I've received numerous phone calls about how we are being watched beyond the call of duty. We have been informed by police that we are under a microscope (the officer said spotlight to me). The city has a guilty-until-innocent fixation toward my wife and I and toward the Skybox. We are new license holders: It is on the record that anything that has happened at that establishment in the past has nothing to do with us.

Some members of the council have made their preferences clear: They have a specific problem with the small-business owners, working class, and professionals that come to our establishment.

Our Operation
Regardless of what any City employee may say, this is how we run our establishment: We have a zero-tolerance for people who want to cause trouble. But we also treat everyone with respect, which is exactly the way people should be treated. We don't look down on anyone, and this is what makes my wife and I the people we are. Small business owners, professional and working class people alike come into our place because it is a clean, inviting, and friendly environment. They come to eat, shoot pool, play pinball, listen to music, play darts, watch sports on one of our ten TVs, or to enjoy one of our ten drafts on tap. People also come to our place just to have a Pepsi and be social.

The police like to pretend we are non-cooperative, but their false accusations are simply uncalled for and unprofessional. Since we have been open, we have learned a lot about the bar business. It is impossible to know a trouble-making patron before they bring attention to themselves. But at the Skybox we ban trouble-making patrons as soon as we identify them. We have a good list of the people we no longer allow in. If we identify someone as a big problem, we have the Westbrook Police serve them with no trespassing papers. A problem patron has been a problem patron only once at the Skybox.

Unfortunately, we have recently asked the police to assist in our efforts, but they have been non-cooperative. As far as our establishment being non-cooperative with police, my wife and I have worked closely with the police department on a number of occasions. We point out trouble spots in the neighborhood. We have let them enter our establishment to remove alleged suspects upon their request. We have granted their requests to not allow a half-dozen or so people who've been served paperwork to return again. We call the police when it is necessary, only to have it count against us.

This last point confuses me, because the City Council has stated that when the establishment calls the police, it is supposed to be a positive thing. Moreover, the Westbrook Police Department has told us not to hesitate to call them and that those calls wouldn’t be used against us. We are cooperative with Westbrook officials, but it is the police and the City who are not cooperating with us.

We are part of an industry that creates jobs and adds to the tax bases of local and state governments. We have the support of other local businesses. If you looked at Frenchtown a year ago, it was deserted with no jobs or tax base. The neighborhood was in the sights of the City for more welfare housing.

We are proud of the fact that we helped bring the Frenchtown community back to life and put people back to work. I strongly feel the approach the City has taken toward us has been in efforts to wear us down with hopes of depleting our resources through bogus proceedings, abusive discovery requests, and legal motions. Unfortunately, most victims abused by the City do not have the means, the know-how, or the staying power to defend themselves. What the City is doing is clearly wrong and uncalled for. And it is critical for future business owners and citizens of Westbrook that this case in particular is resolved in the highest courts of law.

- Allen Moore

Related: The Four Mules Reject Skybox--Again (May 5, 2009)
Related: Owner of Skybox Threatens to Sue City (April 8, 2009)
Related: Skybox Set to Re-Open--For Now (March 12, 2009)
Related: More Skybox (February 17, 2009)


Lynn M said...

So they finally admitted on Monday that they can't take licenses they never gave us so now they are planning on taking our liquor license that the State gave us and that the City has no authority over. They continue to harass, intimidate and make up stories to make us look bad. This is all your tax money at waste, since the State has made it clear to us that what the City is doing is illegal and not binding so I would have to say it has to be harassment, what else could you call it?

Anonymous said...

Good Luck you know we all love you and know you are great people who didn't deserve anyt of these.

michellemarston said...

I am not a Westbrook resident and normally I am not into politics. I have, however, been a patron of the Skybox and after reading several articles and comments on the Diarist I am absolutely appalled. I have honestly never been in such a clean, friendly, well managed establishment.
I hate to use the phrase "corrupt" but I cannot come up with a better way to describe what appears to be happening here.
It's disturbing that the local government can do this to small business owners.
My best wishes to the Moores.

Lynn M said...

The city has moved to Plan C for Monday night since their other two plans were illegal and this one may be as well. Instead of voting on any of our licenses, the Police Chief will simply present an over-view of the incidents they have either concocted or are trying to pin on us to decide whether to ask the State Bureau of Liquor Enforcement to intercede and have it go to court to revoke the license. (not that we haven’t had any incidents but I would have to say 3 of the 6 are either lies or unrelated to the Skybox other than the fact they came into or near the bar that day/evening at some point & by the way all the bars/restaurant have had incidents we ran their reports as well)
I say send it to the State Bureau of Liquor Enforcement they don’t need to spreads lies and propaganda I would rather have an unbiased look at these so called incidents. So I will still need people/witnesses there because I’ve read the reports and saying they have some inaccuracies is being kind.

carolyn said...

I'm behind you guys 100%. You have grown up your whole lives in Westbrook and still live there. It's always been your dream to have this type of great establishment. I love stopping in. I've never seen you guys work so hard. You also have one of the best bartenders I've ever seen and has worked there since the beginning of time. (just kidding Hellen) Everyone knows and respects her. I also love your yummy appetizers. I also have a favorite song on the juke box. Good Luck!!

Anonymous said...

Hello all. I am behind the skybox 100 percent.The city has harassed you people enough at the tax payers expense. I work at another bar in town and go to several and the skybox is the best run and the one that makes even the most unknown strangers feel welcome. You guys have done all you can to make sure the place is well run i commend you for that. When i started going to your place i knew no one now it seems i know everyone and that was because Al made sure i felt welcome. I lived in the house right next to the SKYBOX for the first 5 months and I have a 5 year old son the place never effected my family in any way good luck with this fight keep it up the win will be worth it. DREW WOODY

Skybox Employee said...

Don't you love the fact that we worked with WPD, played by their rules and called them when we had problems? Both WPD and the City Council told us to call them if we have any problems & they wouldn't be used against us. Every other bar owner and/or bartender in town told us not to because THEY WOULD use it again even though they said they wouldn't (every other bar's policy is NEVER CALL THE COPS)so now we may look like we had 1 or 2 more incidents only because WE called as requested by WPD & the City Council. If that isn't bad enough they have to fabricate incidents to make us look bad even with 6-7 witnesses so if they fabricate facts on one police report how many more are incorrect?
If every bar in town called about ever incident they had in their bar they would either have the same amount of calls or way more… We play by their rules and now they are trying to take my job away from.

Anonymous said...

Where is the council going to draw the line here? They want small businesses to support the local economy however when they ever-so-slightly disagree with the idea of the business, they will go to lengths that are out of their jurisdiction to make that business go away? If you're going to call for and encourage small business, you can't pick and choose what businesses are going to be good for the town.

James Tranchemontagne said...

It is sad how helpful the city is to me and how horrible they are to the Skybox and yet we are a 1/4 mile apart. I was there the night the order was given to the police to close the place. I never seen anything like it. 12 police marching in fully armed, telling you to put your drinks down and leave. Us horrible patrons, the slug of Westbrook, didn't fight, were not disrespectful to the officers, we simply shook our heads and left.
I feel bad for the officers who have to take orders from the top. If gives them a bad rap when we really need a working relation with the police on the street.

Al and Lynn are great people who have done more in this city to make it better then most. 10 years of their life they have devoted to running businesses in Westbrook, employing people from Westbrook and paying taxes in Westbrook. What does Westbrook do in return? Slap them in the face. Through the "Freedom of information act" we have tried to get copies of checks and reports to show how much of your tax dollar have been wasted on this. The city has given us the run around.

Anonymous said...

@james – I was there that night as well, 2 guys from another bar in town got out of their car and hit someone in the face standing in front of the Skybox (they didn’t even enter the building) the bartender was notified and called the police and when they came thy 2 guys were long gone and then they just shut the bar down. So because there was crime outside of their establishment (and the reported it) they were financial punished and they are now using it against them? From what I heard if anyone is around the Skybox or comes into the Skybox and goes somewhere else commits any crimes the City of Westbrook and WPD says it’s their fault. Because no one ever commits a crime after they leave Profennos, Cumberland Farm, or the liquor store. My father used to own a bar and he said just because someone chooses to commit a crime before entering the bar or at their own home (or anywhere else for that matter) it is not the bars fault. If it worked that no one anywhere would be selling liquor. Can we say Police Harassment! LEAVE THEM ALONE!! Al and Lynn you guys are the best! I will be there for support and as a witness if needed.

Anonymous said...


As a former employee, and a current friend of skybox, I would like to remind you all, that The Skybox, is Not Andys Tavern. The current owners have really taken the time to make skybox a place that is a safe place for all. They ensure that all of their bartenders are "Tips Certified" and are always observing the safety of all involved. On occasion that someone may venture into the skybox, 9 times out of 10 its someone from another area, the skybox is ready, willing, and eager to detain the situation before it does become a problem. I know first hand how the owners feel about having the police help "protect and serve" on the rare occasion that there services were needed. The ONLY time I have witnessed the police trying to "help" was a couple of weeks ago, when an officer ventured across the street from the corner of North and Brown, to explain to the owner how she needed to be aware of people that are NOT using the crosswalks! Does the skybox also really need to hire a crossing guard as well? Would the city even approve zoning for that? I know this all sounds rediculous, and it IS! The people that are complaining about the bars exhistance, have probably never even been into the establishment! I also have a family, therefore, I wouldn't move to that area because of the biggest issue and most importantly, is a major drug traffic area. Let our focus be on that! I can say firsthand that the skybox has a NO-Tolerance policy when it comes to drugs! Can you say that about the rest of the neighborhood? AL and Lynn are GREAT people, honest people, trying to make an honest living. They have poured their time, love and yes money into producing an establishment that is trying to do run an honest, and respectable business! Can you say that about the poeple on westbrook city council? Have they been honest at all in there intentions? They dont want to work for the people, they want to determine what SHOULD and should not be, doing anything in their powers to shut down the skybox from the beginning. They have NEVER tried to work with the Moore's, to find an alternative that works for all. The Moores have worked with the city, they have even changed there hours to close earlier @ night, helping this will detour "late night traffic" I would like to say Good luck to the Moore's, they are gonna need it, as the old saying goes "you can't fight city hall" Atleast they are fighting for what is right!!!

skybox212 said...

The night our staff closed the establishment at the request of the Westbrook Police Department is another example of us working with police. The only person that can close an establishment legally is a judge. We will be asking publicly who made the order for us to close that evening.

Allen Moore

P.S we are not running a Cactus Club!

Anonymous said...

Hey Al why didn't they close down Millside when someone got run over. That person decided to drive by Millside and almost hit a few of their patrons. They should have been shut down immediately and brought before the city council and made an example of.

Heather Porter said...

I have to say that the skybox is the ONLY bar I will go to in Westbrook. The reason is because I've never seen or had any problems at the bar! The people that go there usually are always nice people. The bar tenders are awesome! I go there at least 3 times a month! The owners and employee's are all respectful and honest! Also the location is great, almost everyone that goes there lives right by. The way I look at it less drunk drivers!Maybe the cops should look at people leaving other clubs in bars in Westbrook I bet you they would find A LOT of drunk people they should be paying more attention to!!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember that rumor about some WPD officers got into a big knock down drag out at I believe Profennos but could be Stockhouse and they had to call in the cops from the surrounding areas to assist? When and where was that? I never saw that brought up to the City Council!! It may just be a rumor but since they are spreading propaganda why can't the patrons :) Isn't that Fire Dept running with some of the same people after 15 years of sexual harassment but you can't give the Skybox fair treatment - All this city knows is harassment their good at it is what they do.

skybox212 said...

The OFFICIAL TERM IS " HARASSMENT BY POLICE " I am curious how a June 13 incident at an Establishment was down graded to disorderly conduct? The establishment called in a fight. Our police log reads " fight in progress " when we call in an altercation?

Allen Moore

Very concerned Westbrook voter and taxpayer said...

Allen and Lynn,

This is outrageous. We hardly ever go to bars anymore but after reading this thread we've decided to make it a point to come over this weekend to meet you both, look the Skybox over, chat about what you're going through and have a couple of drinks and a snack.

Something's WAY out of whack here.

Best of luck with maintaining your right to show you can indeed operate this business responsibly.

skybox212 said...

Thanks, We will be looking forward to meeting with you. The mayors sectary comes in all the time. If it was that bad I would assume she would not. Once we had a couple young ladies come in. They had just moved here from away. They informed us that the Westbrook police told them not to come to our place because it is shady? The propaganda is hog wash! This is our lively hood and the place is run right!

Allen Moore

Lynn M said...

Very concerned voter:
You know how many new customers we have that say “I don’t go to bars” but I love coming in here. We love that! We have customers that just drink soda, socialize, eat, play free pool or pinball. Definitely come in and check the place out (meet Allen and I), our clam cakes and nachos are legendary!

Lynn Moore

skybox212 said...

Everyone should feel free to go to rm 114 at the Westbrook High school on Monday the 26 at 7 pm. The city can tell their side publicly and we will tell ours. As mentioned under the notes some councilors have a been clear they have a problem with the small business owners, Professionals and working class that comes into our establishment. I would like to hear those members of the council explain their position publicly.

Allen Moore

Anonymous said...

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.

Anonymous said...

That's funny because there is no way those "Brown Streeter's could get alcohol at any variety store, liquoir store or walk/drive to any other the other bars within .5 miles of their residents.

James Tranchemontagne said...

Information I been requested came in today.

Here is the e-mail I received:

"Well I’m not sure we’ve been terribly successful with the info you requested… We know we paid our insurance deductible of $10,000. and we’ve paid approximately $10,200. to the attorneys…. No breakdown by year as you requested… Sorry… let me know if I can help with any other info.

Susan R. Rossignol"

So between the fire dept., sky box and the pike debacle the tax payers are out close to a $250,000. This is one of the main reasons I'm running for Ward 4, is to be on the side of businesses and to spend our tax money more wisely. Think what we could have down with this money?

I have spoken a numerous meeting for the Doores and Al and Lynn. If you are upset by their treatment join me this Saturday at the small park on Brown St. 10 to 11am for a campaign rally. I could use help or we will get the same old same old council again.

Lynn M said...

I just read the article in the American Journal is says we 17 incidents. I met with Captain Roth 1 a month every month since we have been open and we have discussed 6 (wtf). I have emails where quite few months he said we didn't have any incidents so I will have to compare my emails with those incidents. Was he holding out on me or are they making them up??

Anonymous said...

The press is comming!

Anonymous said...

After seeing the article in the paper and on the news about the Cactus Club – this is obviously just the City’s way to harass and try and publicly spread more propaganda about the Skybox. If they State was going to take anyone’s licenses they would taken Cactus Clubs by now (they still could but they didn’t step in even after all the trouble they have had) and they would have taken Slanite’s license for serving underage drinkers 4 times!!! Keep up the good work and you will have a harassment lawsuit on top of all your other lawsuits. My tax dollars continue to be put to good use!

Anonymous said...

whoops Slainte @24 Preble St Portland

skybox212 said...


I believe Captain Roth is counting incidents by date on police reports to make their position look more favorable . Theses incidents include police detail, pedestrian checks, our request to have no trespass papers served and the three times our establishment called for service. According to the city council, Bill Baker, Captain Roth and Bill Dale those three should not count? I have tallied them my self and if counting dates on the reports it appears to be accurate. I tallied all incidents from all establishments in town and the areas around the tavern. The # of dated alleged incidents goes as follows. Stock House 17, Mill Side 15, Profennos 17, Fajita Grill 10, 206 Brown 25, 213 Brown 22. Skybox at 212 Brown 17. Someone mentioned Rite Aide had 41?

For the record I compared dates from the opening day of skybox to current.

My question is, Why are we being dragged in front of the city council when the # of incidents seem to be about the same. For the record this fiasco started when we told Captain Roth we were no longer comfortable discussing anything with the Westbrook Police Department with our lawyer present. All of a sudden we were in court. There was another incident involving Captain Roth when I suggested I was going to make a complaint to the Attorneys General Office. He took my suggestion by means of defending myself as a threat to his department.

Allen Moore

skybox212 said...

That was without our lawyer!

Anonymous said...

There are TWO sides to every story. I think any and ALL adults should keep know that and keep that in mind.

skybox212 said...

Two sides with one judge, I like that! See you at the meeting!

Allen Moore

skybox212 said...

Tonight's meeting in council chambers was a fresh breath of new air. Here is to new beginnings. I really appreciate being able to shake the hands of the council members, Chief, Gouzie, Bryant and mean it. It has been a long hard road for all of us. I am looking forward to having a good solid relationship with all departments of the city. I give special thanks to everyone that came out and spoke on behalf of the Skybox. You all did great and did so well. Special thanks to Jon Morgan and his blog. They are watching!

Allen Moore