City Hall Reporters Notebook: Bars and barbs edition
C.J. Abatiell said the average Rutland bar owner knows how to avoid serving minors.
Abatiell, owner of CJ’s Suds South, was one of the Rutland bar owners who turned up last week as the Board of Aldermen discussed a law that would have banned people under 21 from Rutland bars. The law, ultimately rejected after two amendments and a seemingly endless debate, was intended to close a loophole in the entertainment ordinance but reached somewhat further than the 18-and-over parties that spurred its proposal.
“I’ve been in the bar business, probably, longer than most of the Board of Aldermen are old at this point,” he said. “Quite frankly, for the board to tell me, at this point, I’m incapable of maintaining my business ... It’s kind of offensive.”
Abatiell noted that the law, as written, would not have applied to Rutland’s fraternal organizations, and he suspected that was a political decision rather than one grounded in good policy.
“Eight hundred members of the Moose Club — we don’t want to upset the Moose Club,” he said.
Discussion in committee had pitted the social ill of an alcoholic parent parking a child on a bar stool for hours on end against the social good of letting a parent bring a child in to use the bathroom during Friday Night Live. Abatiell offered a different scenario.
“In the summertime, I get a lot of bikers ... couples with kids,” he said. “They might want to stop and have a burger on the deck. The kids might want to have a soda. ... I’m to stop them at the door and say, ‘Sorry, you can’t have a soda on the deck because it’s a city ordinance?’ There’s no sense.”
Abatiell said the loss of that sort of business in an already troublesome economy would be devastating, and if the board is worried about minors coming into his establishment, they should be just as worried about them coming into clubs or alcohol-serving restaurants.
“I can’t sell a drink at the same price as one of the fraternal clubs,” he said. “From the break-open tickets right on through, we’re never on an even playing field.”
So, why is bringing my kid along bad if I do it at Two Shea’s but OK if I do it at the Moose or the Elks?
Alderman Charles Romeo, who wrote the proposal, said he made a distinction between the public nature of bars and the private character of the members-only establishments.
“I don’t think we should be as interested in regulating private events as we are in the general public,” he said.
Scene from a mayoral debate
The story on last week’s mayoral debate focused on public safety since it made up the bulk of the debate and featured the most visible clash of ideas.
While the only subject they said they agreed completely on was not wanting the city to own the downtown parking deck, some of the argument between Mayor Christopher Louras and Board of Aldermen President David Allaire was of the “uh-huh/nuh-uh” variety, such as their discussion of transparency.
Allaire said the public would be involved in his administration’s decision making “from day one” and Louras did not always communicate in a timely manner. Louras said he was “extremely transparent,” communicating issues to the board in a timely manner, but Allaire did not always transmit information he came across to the entire board — to which Allaire responded “that’s just false.”
Neither made the sort of claim, at least on that subject, specific enough to fact-check.
The discussion of roads appeared to touch off a philosophical clash before bringing the candidates back to roughly the same location.
Allaire said a lot of taxpayers don’t see the logic behind the paving list and that he would like to see a “comprehensive program” determining where to pave.
Louras replied that when it comes to paving, the mayor should “defer to the professionals.”
“The politicians should not be involved in deciding what gets paved and when,” he said. “We need to leave that to the engineers.”
Allaire came back with a sentiment that the city’s elected officials are supposed to be the voice of the people, but “yes, you’ll defer to DPW to make those decisions.”
Tonight, the Charter and Ordinance Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the Giorgetti fund ordinance.
Tuesday, the Community and Economic Development Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the Baxter Street Alley.
Wednesday evening starts with another Community and Economic Development Committee meeting at 5:30 p.m., this time on solar and clean energy. Then, aldermanic candidates gather at the Rutland Free Library at 6:30 p.m. for a forum sponsored by the Rutland County Democrats.
Thursday is similarly double-booked, with the Finance Committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the recreation department’s Home Depot account and then the Paramount Theatre hosting a mayoral debate at 7 p.m.