PEABODY — When a business is the nexus for repeated violence and disturbances, someone has to pay. That was the judgment of the Licensing Board last night, as members stung the management of Oliveira’s Steak House with new regulations, cutting back the hours in which they can serve alcohol.
Chairman Minas Dakos led off the hearing, reading two letters from recently retired police Chief Robert Champagne that cited problems going back to 2011 and called the restaurant “a public nuisance ... a source of violence, a hazard to patrons.” The most serious incident, on Oct. 12, was a nonfatal stabbing.
Deputy Chief Marty Cohan told the board that police regularly “dispatch the cruisers to sit there and monitor the patrons as they exit.” Even so, some are so brazen that incidents have happened directly in front of the cruisers.
In response, Oliveira’s lawyer Jack Keilty stressed that new management had taken over earlier this year with only five of the incidents occurring since. None of the troubles happened on the premises, he added, and owner Sebastia Gomes has taken extraordinary steps to maintain order, installing more than a dozen cameras and searching customers with a metal-detecting wand.
Further, Keilty said, much of the trouble stemmed from a regular party. “They found they were attracting a young crowd ... non-local. They discontinued that party.” Keilty suggested that those customers had been coming from Lynn.
Finally, he was joined by retired Peabody police officer Dean Armstrong, who said that he has been hired by Gomes to bolster security. Dakos praised the effort.
“I’m so sad about these people coming to our place,” Alia Damasceno, Oliveira’s manager, said. “We work so hard. Why people coming to our place to do this?”
“There are no other establishments where you have to send cruisers because you know there’s going to be an incident,” countered member Nancy Delaney.
“We’re endangering our patrolmen,” colleague Fred Murtagh said. “I don’t believe we need this.” He reasoned that the incidents were likely linked to “over-serving” by the establishment. Armstrong noted that there is no proof of this.
“I don’t know why we should have to sit and wait for something worse to happen,” Murtagh said.
While members indicated some sympathy with management, they adopted a motion by Delaney to forbid the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. for the next six months. Currently, it can be served until 1 a.m.
“We’re losing some valuable hours during the holiday season,” Keilty said. “ It’s more than an inconvenience in that it really changes the business plan.” He suggested a probation instead.
“Somebody’s got to pay a price for what has happened,” Murtagh said. “This is right down the gut of our city.”