City moves to quash 18-and-over parties
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | February 07,2013
International Night at The Local is getting no love from city officials.
The Charter and Ordinance Committee voted unanimously Tuesday night to recommend the full board adopt an ordinance banning people under age 21 from city bars. Exceptions were included for employment purposes and private events and the law specifically exempts bowling alleys and theaters.
The ordinance would close a loophole in the city’s liquor laws that allowed The Local owner Chip Greeno to hold 18-and-over parties at the Merchants Row nightclub. By law, under-21 patrons are not served alcohol at such events.
Greeno had approached the board last year seeking permission to run events similar to ones he had run in Killington that were aimed at international workers from the ski resorts, many of whom are in the 18 to 20 age range. After several meetings and significant debate, the board declined to alter a city ordinance designed to prevent such events at bars.
However, the law was written in such a way that it only forbade bars from admitting people under 21 if the underage patrons were barred other nights. So Greeno declared that the bar was open to patrons 18 and up on all nights, but charged patrons under 21 a $150 cover charge on nights he was not holding International Night.
“Yeah, the ordinance was not as clear as it could be, but when we walked out of here, I think it was clear the desire of the board was there was not going to be this sort of thing going on,” Alderman David Allaire, committee member and president of the full board, told Greeno. “You said it was not your intent to thumb your nose at the board. ... Maybe it was not your intent, but it sure seems that way.”
The practice came to light last month when police responded to a noise complaint at The Local. Greeno was issued a ticket — which he says he will contest — alleging that he violated a city ordinance. The Special Liquor Committee met on the subject Monday and declined to take action.
Tuesday, Alderman Charles Romeo, chairman of the Charter and Ordinance Committee, presented a draft of the ordinance closing the loophole. Greeno bought a number of employees to the meeting, and one of the frequent attendees at International Night.
Lilybeth Diaz, 20, a Peruvian guest worker, said there was nowhere else for people in her circle to go.
“We are here, not to drink and get drunk,” she said. “We are here to work and learn about you guys, how your life is.”
Nobody on the committee — and none of the other aldermen in attendance — suggested allowing the parties to continue as Greeno was throwing them. Several, though, pointed out that Greeno could hold the parties as dry events.
“If it’s such a wonderful thing, why does it have to be done in the presence of alcohol?” Alderman Sean Sargeant asked. “Any establishment can hold this event right now.”
Greeno said alcohol-free parties aren’t economically viable.
“I’m not in the business of hosting events and making no revenue,” he said. “The majority of the people coming to these are over 21. There’s only a handful who are under. The point is, they can all go together.”
Greeno said he has tried to hold the parties as 21-and-over events, but older international workers don’t come out when they have to leave their younger compatriots behind.
The ordinance goes before the full board at its next regular meeting.