The Patio, closed for the winter, also loses its liquor license
Downtown Tilly’s, a relatively new and popular addition to the Main Street dining scene, was closed by police Monday after they were found to be serving alcohol without a valid liquor license.
The restaurant had been working on renewing its liquor license since November (all liquor licenses come up for renewal Dec. 1), needing a state tax certificate of payment, a requirement for license renewal. At a Town Council meeting Jan. 8, Downtown Tilly’s owner Ty Cosgrove told the council (sitting as the Board of Licensures) the restaurant was not serving alcohol and did not have alcohol on the premises. It was a public hearing and he was under oath when he spoke. In light of his statements, the council granted the restaurant a victualling-only license extension to Jan. 22, with the hope the restaurant would have gotten its sign off from the state Division of Taxation by then.
But a server from the restaurant notified the town last week that the restaurant was still serving alcohol and that Cosgrove had not responded to questions from servers about the state of the liquor license.
Police checked out the restaurant several times from Friday, Jan. 19, to Sunday, Jan. 21. On Jan. 19, EGPD officers found two patrons drinking beer and another drinking what appeared to be a “mixed alcoholic beverage.”
Saturday morning, police returned and found the bar tap handles removed and liquor bottles had been relocated from the top shelf behind the bar to a lower shelf.
At their meeting Monday, Jan. 22, the Town Council decided that without the state tax certificate, they would not renew Downtown Tilly’s license nor would they be granting an extension. They were leaning that way but testimony from two servers from the restaurant appeared to further convince the panel. One of the servers said she had repeatedly asked about whether or not they could serve liquor but never got a straight answer. Then she learned about the Jan. 8 Town Council meeting, where it was explicitly laid out there was to be no alcohol served or even on the premises. Another server echoed those comments and explained this was so important to her she had hired a babysitter so she could attend the Town Council meeting.
After the 5-0 vote allowing the license to lapse, Council President Mark Schwager said, “This is a very unusual situation for us to be in. I have sympathy for you, Mr. Cosgrove, but I also have great respect for the two witnesses who came forward.”
According to Cosgrove, the restaurant is closed temporarily. To reopen, they will need to reapply. Meanwhile, Town Solicitor Andy Teitz has referred the violations to the police to be investigated for criminal wrongdoing.
“These charges are serious,” said Teitz Monday.
Also at the Jan. 22 Town Council meeting, the panel voted 3-1 to not grant The Patio a further extension on their liquor license after they failed to produce a tax certificate from the state. The Main Street restaurant closed for the season in October. Jason Winpenny, via Zoom, told the council he would have the tax certificate by Tuesday morning, citing problems beyond his control with a previous accountant.
Solicitor Teitz said the town worked hard to help restaurants with their licenses but it had been almost two months since their license had expired. Councilor Mike Zarrella said he would be in favor of giving the Winpennys 24 hours but councilors Schwager, Renu Englehart and Caryn Corenthal voted against an extension. Councilor Mike Donegan was recused from this item.
Update 1/30/24: The Town Clerk’s office said Monday (1/29) that the Winpennys had applied for a new liquor license Thursday, tax certificate in place.