SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 7, 2013

Peabody board considers Oliveira's injunction

Alan Burke
The Salem News

— PEABODY — Your serve, Peabody.

Licensing Board Chairman Minas Dakos was at a loss yesterday trying to understand the reason Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead issued an injunction on Thursday sweeping away the sanction put on Oliveira’s Steakhouse. The board had required the restaurant to stop serving liquor at 10 p.m. on a trial, six-month, basis. Previously alcohol could be served until 1 a.m.

Oliveira’s found itself in trouble following multiple police calls, including a nonfatal stabbing. Officers told the Licensing Board that they routinely and uniquely station themselves at the restaurant because the problems have been so frequent. Former police Chief Robert Champagne urged the board to revoke the establishment’s liquor license, calling it a “public nuisance.”

In his ruling Whitehead agreed with Oliveira’s lawyer Jack Keilty that the board had failed to tell the restaurant’s owner Sebastia Gomes that he was coming to a disciplinary hearing. The judge suggested the board go back to the beginning and “schedule a new hearing.” Dakos expects to take the matter up at the next board meeting, Monday at 7 p.m.

“It’s something that the board will have to sit down and discuss,” agreed member Fred Murtagh. But he expressed the hope that their actions up to now are already having a positive impact. “I’m hoping Oliveira’s has learned their lesson.” Murtagh had pushed for a strong penalty, noting that incidents surrounding the restaurant have put police officers at risk. Other members voiced the suspicion that “over serving” of alcohol had contributed to the difficulties.

Licensing Board member Nancy Delaney had said that their punishment was not “appeal-able,” as the board has the power to set hours. But speaking after the decision came down, Keilty suggested that appeals were only barred at the level of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, not in court.

It’s the second time in recent months that Whitehead has handed down a decision second-guessing Peabody officials. He overruled the City Council in allowing the Lowell Street billboard, including a more than 90-foot pole that was eventually placed in the wrong spot. The pole remains, though the judge subsequently upheld a city decision to forbid its use. Efforts to settle that dispute are ongoing.

City officials had harsh words for Whitehead then, with Councilor Jim Liacos speculating at one point that the judge would have ruled otherwise if the billboard was erected near his house. In this matter, however, when asked about the Oliveira’s ruling, councilors and board members declined comment.