And they deny Slice owner’s request to move closing time from 1 to 1:30 a.m.
The Town Council, sitting as the Board of Licensures, told Low Key owner Zach Flanders the Main Street bar’s failure to curb police interactions put it in peril regarding its liquor license renewal, at a meeting Monday night. Flanders, with Low Key lawyer Sean O’Leary, argued they deserved the benefit of the doubt while cases remain pending in municipal court.
“We vigorously oppose the alleged violations,” O’Leary said.
According to Town Solicitor Andy Teitz, Low Key has four active EG Municipal Court summons, covering a total of six separate infractions, including serving liquor after hours, playing music after hours, and knowingly permitting consumption or possession of alcohol by minors. The court will take up the infractions at its Jan. 4 session. He added that police had been called to the bar 16 times between Nov. 12, 2022, and Oct. 7, 2023.*
Liquor and victualling licenses come up for renewal in East Greenwich every Dec. 1. Businesses must supply certain information – including proof of insurance, proof of taxes (both state and local) paid. And, in the case of Low Key, the town wants resolution of the municipal court cases before renewing their liquor license. Because the cases won’t be heard until January, councilors granted Low Key an extension to January so the bar could remain open, but not before one councilor expressed her opposition.
“Low Key is not good for our town,” Councilor Caryn Corenthal said. “You are not a good partner here, really not. I went to your opening – you have a beautiful place. I wanted you to succeed.”
That feeling has faded, she said, based on what Corenthal said she’d read in the town’s police log and heard anecdotally.
“I would not vote to extend your license. I don’t think you should have a business, frankly.”
Low Key, which opened in September 2021, has attracted a younger, late-night crowd. Councilor Mike Donegan said agreeing to hire a police detail on Friday and Saturday nights could help convince the panel to approve the extension but Flanders said that was unnecessary because they have private security and he noted he’d replaced the security firm recently. Councilor Mike Zarrella said Low Key had to have a police detail for New Year’s Eve. The town does grant a later closing time on New Year’s Eve for those establishments that seek it – they can stay open until 2 a.m. instead of 1 a.m., though with no liquor served after 1 a.m. Flanders eventually agreed to hire a police detail for New Year’s Eve.
According to Donegan, it was a question of safety.
“We have a robust downtown,” he said. “We’re very sensitive toward helping businesses survive, but … this is truly a safety question for us. It really is.”
The council voted 3-1 to extend Low Key’s license to Jan. 8 (the date of the first Town Council meeting after Low Key appears in Municipal Court), with Corenthal voting against. Renu Englehart was absent.
Also Monday night, the Town Council denied a request from Jason Kindness, owner of the Main Street pizza shop Slice, to allow the shop to stay open until 1:30 a.m. Kindness said there is a demand for pizza after the bars close at 1 a.m. and he said they have security on site to monitor the shop for the last hour or so of business.
Town Manager Andy Nota said allowing Slice to stay open until 1:30 a.m. would change the dynamic on Main Street (where all other businesses would have to close at 1).
“We’re trying to find an equilibrium that allows us to have a particular kind of district,” said Nota. “It’s still a small town … it’s still a small [police] department. It’s about our ability to manage incidents when they occur.”
Since Slice is a takeout place, Nota said, the argument that it could potentially slow down someone who had been drinking from getting behind the wheel of a car was less persuasive.
“I take a lot of care and attention,” said owner Kindness. “I think we all want the same thing…. I ask for consideration to give us a shot to manage it. I’m happy to come back anytime for a reconsideration.”
In the end, however, the council sided with Nota’s arguments, voting 4-0 against the 1:30 a.m. closing time.
*Editor’s note: This paragraph was amended 12/1/23 at 7:30 a.m.