Twin River one meeting away from liquor license extension decision

Twin River one meeting away from liquor license extension decision

LINCOLN - The plan to extend Twin River Casino's liquor license to 2 a.m. on weekends and nights before holidays for a six-month trial period received a favorable recommendation from the Ordinance Committee Monday night, who sent the ordinance to the full Town Council for consideration on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

The positive recommendation was given by three of the five Town Councilors - Arthur Russo, Kenneth Pichette and James Jahnz - after a presentation by Twin River officials.

The one-hour extensions have been granted at Twin River for years on New Year's Eve and the night before Thanksgiving, the casino's attorney W. Mark Russo explained. Rather than submit this request for dozens of separate days, he said, having a six-month program in place would allow for consistent interaction with Lincoln Police Chief Brian Sullivan to see if the extension would work long-term.

The aim of the extension, attorney Russo said, is to stay competitive with existing casinos in Connecticut and future casinos in Massachusetts, which he anticipates will serve until 2 a.m. A safety aspect is also in play, he said, as the extension will help keep Twin River patrons from leaving after last call to drive to Providence to squeeze in another drink or two.

But the reverse is not expected to happen, said Twin River Vice President and General Manager Craig Sculos, with patrons leaving surrounding bars at 1 a.m. and heading to Twin River.

Food and beverage service is not the primary draw of the casino, he explained. This extension is for the players already in the casino who want to drink a bit longer, he said.

Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond remained neutral during discussions, but said knowing both the business and law enforcement sides of the issue, "it wouldn't be plausible" for a patron to leave Providence for Twin River when the hours are the same.

As has been the case throughout these discussions, no residents nor area restaurant and bar owners have attended the meeting to voice their opinions.

Steve Lefebvre, Twin River director of security, said in his experience over the past two and one-half years, he has not had an increase in incidents related to a liquor extension on the night before a holiday.

"I haven't noticed an issue or had to deal with a patron just because they were there for an extra hour," he said.

In fact, he said, operating a 24-hour establishment helps to mitigate any potential issues.

"The big thing for me is there's no closing time," Lefebvre said. "Providence is throwing them out on the street. We're not doing that."

Non-alcoholic beverages and coffee are available free on the gaming floor, he said, and several eateries, like Dunkin' Donuts and Subway, are open through the night.

Patrons arriving at the casino must also pass through three layers of security - in the parking lot and valet area and at the front door - before they enter, keeping those who have already had too much to drink out of the facility.

Once inside, shut-off services are initiated if one of the 100 Serv Safe-certified employees identifies someone who has had too much to drink and uses surveillance footage to ensure the patron does not move to another bar.

This happens an average of five to seven times per week, Sculos said, adding that the casino sees attendance of 5.7 million people per year.

These patrons are also forced to leave the facility, either by a friend or relative driving them home or by taxi, which Twin River will pay for if the patron cannot. This taxi service is used approximately four to five times per week, Lefebvre said.

If approved, the extension will cost Twin River $200 per day, a fee set by Rhode Island General Law, to be paid in advance. Councilor Russo figured this cost will equate to $10,000 for the six-month trial.