PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation has granted a stay in the license revocation of the Boneyard Barbecue Restaurant and Saloon in Ashaway. The decision, released on Oct. 7, means that the restaurant will keep its license, with conditions, at least until a state hearing on the revocation.
The motion was filed with the department on Oct. 1 by ABK LLC, Boneyard’s owner, against the Town of Hopkinton Board of Licenses. Sitting as a licensing board, the Town Council voted unanimously at a hearing on Sept. 30 to revoke the license, citing numerous violations of the 1 a.m. closing time and repeated over-serving of customers.
The hearing followed the arrest of Boneyard co-owner Patrick Kane on Aug. 23 on a charge of obstructing justice in the investigation of a fatal accident on Aug. 16 on the restaurant's property at 15A Frontier Road in Ashaway.
The department’s 14-page decision explains that the state does not take license revocations lightly.
“The revocation of a liquor license is a relatively rare event and is reserved for a severe infraction or a series of smaller infractions that rise to a level of jeopardizing public safety,” the decision said. “… Thus, the Department will uphold a revocation where an incident is so egregious as to justify revocation without progressive discipline. However, the Department will decline to uphold a revocation where the violation is not so egregious or extreme and the local authority has not engaged in progressive discipline.”
There have been no formal sanctions against Boneyard Barbecue since February 2018, when the restaurant was granted its liquor license, a point made frequently by ABK's attorneys during the Sept. 30 hearing.
ABK asked that the restaurant be permitted to “maintain the status quo” pending the outcome of the state license hearing. The town countered that allowing the restaurant to remain open would constitute a danger to the public.
State Hearing Officer Catherine Warren determined that Kane would have to go, saying he “certainly does not appear qualified to manage an establishment based on testimony before the board."
Warren issued a list of seven conditions under which the Boneyard could remain open while at the same time ensuring that public safety would be protected. All the conditions must be met before the restaurant reopens.
- Kane will not work in or manage the establishment.
- The Boneyard must close by 11 p.m every night.
- ABK and its proposed new manager will meet with the department to go over his/her experience and plans for operating the restaurant.
- The surveillance system, which was reported broken before the fatal accident, must be working.
- Boneyard management will provide the department with a security plan, which may include a police detail paid for by the restaurant.
- ABK must provide proof that is working on Kane’s removal from the corporation.
- ABK will provide the department with an alcohol service compliance plan.
Hopkinton Town Solicitor Kevin McAllister said the department’s interim order allowed Boneyard to retain its license, but the restaurant would still not be able to serve liquor.
“They can’t serve alcohol there unless and until they comply with those seven conditions, many of which have to be brought back to the Town Council sitting as a licensing board for approval,” he said. “So it’s going to go back to the council sitting as a board in any event before they can do it."
McAllister also noted that the conditions would take time and money to satisfy. “They’ve got a lot of hoops to jump through,” he said.
With the interim order in place, the Department of Business Regulation will hold a detailed hearing on the license revocation.
“The hearing officer is already starting the process of scheduling the hearing, so while Boneyard, if they choose to try to comply with those seven conditions, DBR is requiring us to proceed with the evidentiary hearing," McAllister said. "The hearing that you saw on Sept. 30, they’re going to start fresh from that, unless there’s some kind of appeal taken in the interim. I don’t know what’s going to happen. This is a fluid situation.”
Council President Frank Landolfi did not respond to a request for comment on the decision and council member Barbara Capalbo said that the council had been instructed not to comment publicly on the case.
Kane’s attorney, John Grasso, did not respond to a request for comment.