Lincoln’s clerk resigns after investigation

Lincoln’s clerk resigns after investigation

LINCOLN – Following questions about whether proper procedure was followed in issuing a liquor license to an Albion restaurant last month, Lincoln Town Clerk Karen Allen has resigned from her position she’s held for more than 15 years.

Town Administrator Joe Almond said he accepted the resignation on Tuesday when it was offered. Allen, who had been on leave since February, came to a severance agreement with the town. Though he would not disclose details, Almond confirmed that the town had opened and since concluded an investigation into the clerk’s office.

The Valley Breeze is now seeking a copy of the severance agreement through a records request to the town.

Under state law, the board, body or official to whom application for a liquor license is made – Lincoln’s clerk in this case – must advertise the application in the paper once a week for at least two weeks. Notice of the application must also be sent, by mail, to all property owners within 200 feet of the place of business seeking the application.

In the case of Vine & Tap, the unopened Albion restaurant at the center of the controversy, Almond said the clerk’s office posted notice of the public hearing in The Breeze but did not mail letters to abutting property owners to notify them that their neighbor was seeking a liquor license. Eight abutters signed legal affidavits alleging just that, an accusation the town does not dispute.

Town officials withheld a previously approved application in the face of the accusations, and because officials said the applicant, 119 Main LLC, failed to disclose that the restaurant owner had been previously arrested or charged with a crime, checking “no” on the liquor application. The owner, Michael McAteer, was afforded a second chance at a public hearing, which was set for a council meeting on Tuesday of this week, March 19.

Neighbors of the proposed tapas restaurant showed up in force at Tuesday’s meeting, along with their attorneys, prepared to speak out against the application. Before that could happen, Town Solicitor Anthony DeSisto announced that the applicant had contacted him and the Town Council to withdraw the application.

DeSisto acknowledged that he received a letter from attorney John Mancini, who represents a majority of the abutters, alleging they were in opposition to the license. According to Rhode Island statute, if a majority of owners object, the license cannot be issued, he said.

Upon his advice, the council voted unanimously to deny the liquor license, also voting to deny the issuance of a victualing license that would have allowed the restaurant to serve food.

At the same meeting, the council voted to extend the liquor license for R1 Indoor Karting to permit drink service on the lower level of the entertainment facility, where an ax-throwing bar opened last month.

Speaking on behalf of the company, R1’s CEO Pieter Martens told the council he understands people’s potential fears over mixing axes and alcohol, but underscored the company’s emphasis on safety. All of the staff are certified to sell alcohol, and there is a police detail on Saturdays when the bar is busy, he said.

“You will never see someone holding a beer and throwing an ax,” said Martens.

The license was approved 4-1, with Councilor Pamela Azar opposed.

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