International Cafe saga continues with fine, plans for second liquor license hearing

International Cafe saga continues with fine, plans for second liquor license hearing

LINCOLN - After being found in violation of four conditions of his full BV liquor license by serving alcohol and playing music after hours, the owner of International Cafe has been fined $150 by the town, and must comply with a condition to remove the tint from his windows.

This was the first offense for Elia Nassios, who opened the restaurant and bar at 1526 Old Louisquisset Pike in September 2012, though police say they have given him half a dozen verbal warnings over the past year.

Both he and Lincoln Police Department Patrolman Richard Bousquet testified in front of town councilors sitting as the Board of License Commissioners at a show cause hearing on Tuesday night, Oct. 22, in Town Hall.

Nassios was without legal representation, but attended the hearing with his young daughter.

The show cause hearing was in regards to a reported incident from early Sunday, Aug. 18, when police doing their normal rounds of bars reportedly found 18 patrons plus staff at International Cafe at 2:05 a.m., more than an hour after closing, with six of the customers drinking at the bar.

"As soon as they saw me, they kind of scattered," Bousquet said.

A separate reported violation from Sept. 11, when Nassios was reportedly found in the bar at 3 a.m. with patrons and staff drinking bottled water while loud music was playing, will be discussed at a second show cause hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 26.

For the Aug. 18 offense, councilors voted unanimously to find Nassios in violation by:

* Serving alcohol after the legal closing hour of 1 a.m.

* Having patrons in the bar past 1:30 a.m. They must leave within a half-hour of closing.

* Having staff in the bar past 2 a.m. Staff must leave within an hour of closing.

* Playing music after 12:45 a.m.

The fine amount came at the recommendation of Town Solicitor Anthony DeSisto, who said first violations typically carry a fine of $150 to $200. Subsequent offenses could mean increased fines, or suspension or revocation of the license.

On Tuesday night, Nassios said he was not yet sure if he would appeal the fine.

In a 3-2 vote, Councilors Keith Macksoud, Arthur Russo and John Flynn voted against finding Nassios in violation of a fifth condition, operating a disorderly business so as to annoy neighbors.

"I didn't find that he violated that particular rule as there were no, on this particular night, no complaints from the neighborhood," Russo said, rather that Bousquet came upon the bar during his routine patrol.

Councilor Kenneth Pichette voted along with Councilor James Jahnz to find Nassios in violation of the fifth condition.

"If I lived in that neighborhood, that would be a disturbance to me," Pichette said.

Bousquet said he heard music as soon as he exited the cruiser and walked in the open door to the bar. He said he was able to identify Nassios as the owner immediately because he had given him verbal warnings "probably 6 or 7 times" over a year period for similar situations.

"He's a business owner in town, so I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt," Bousquet said, adding that Nassios told him he did not realize what time it was.

Nassios offered an explanation that sometimes the "older" Greek band members he has play on Saturday nights can be slow moving with breaking down their equipment, and not able to get out of the bar in time.

"It's still no excuse," Nassios said.

Bousquet said he saw no instruments around on the night of the violation.

When questioned by Councilor Kenneth Pichette, Nassios said the music officers heard was that of a CD, and not the band.

While this is the first liquor license violation for Nassios, he has been before the Town Council several times in the year since he opened the restaurant in the former Birch Tree Pub location.

Councilors have twice denied him an extension of his liquor license to a concrete patio he built without permission that triples the footprint of the building without adding parking, among other concerns regarding safety and accessibility.

Nassios previously faced Smithfield Town Council discipline twice after neighbors complained about loud music on the outdoor patio of his former European Cafe on Douglas Pike, for which he entered a voluntary receivership in 2012.