Selectmen Hear Of Chaotic Scene At Boathouse Restaurant
By: Christopher Kazarian
A little more than two weeks after 14 Falmouth police officers responded to a fight at the Pier 37 Boathouse on Scranton Avenue, in which two men carrying handguns were subsequently arrested, the owner of the restaurant appeared before selectmen to discuss potential repercussions of that incident.
The scene at the Boathouse early in the morning on July 3, according to Falmouth Police Chief Anthony J. Riello, was one of disorder, with drunken patrons, some of whom were out of control and refusing to go home. Officers elected to shut down the establishment, which appeared to be over its occupancy limit, but in doing so Chief Riello said staff were uncooperative in removing customers from the restaurant.
He said the Boathouse surveillance video later showed that a firearm was drawn during a melee in the restaurant.
He did commend Boathouse owner Conor R. McLaughlin for being cooperative with the police, who have been there on a nightly basis since that incident and have attempted to work with him to remove the possibility of any such incidents happening again.
He stressed that police detail is important because “it was a serious incident that needs to be addressed.”
Following his comments Sergeant Brian Loewen, one of the 14 officers to respond to the 911 call, provided details about the incident. He said he was one of the first to arrive at the Boathouse, pursuing one of the men carrying a firearm that night, 25-year-old Michael J. Fields of Mashpee, behind the Windfall Market where he was subdued and arrested.
As a result of that chase, he noted that he was unable to witness what the initial crowd looked like, but when he returned there were roughly 10 officers there including a K-9 officer from the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Department.
Additionally, he said, “there was a large crowd and it didn’t seem like anyone was interested in leaving.” He said a decision was made by both him and Sergeant Brian T. Reid to shut down the Boathouse, not knowing that Sergeant Brian D. Kinsella had made that decision minutes earlier.
Inside, Sgt. Loewen said, it was a similar scene to the parking lot with patrons on the dance floor, outdoor deck and dining room all milling about and not wanting to leave. He said he did not see any staff wanting to help, so police began removing drinks from patrons’ hands and instructing them to leave.
He said one customer was so intoxicated—terming him “completely legless”—that he was taken into protective custody.
Sgt. Reid, he said, instructed one female to leave and had a cup of ice thrown at him. Her boyfriend proceeded to push Sgt. Reid, Sgt. Loewen said, and both were arrested.
In order to get patrons off the property, he said, police had to turn on two sirens in their vehicles as an annoyance to get people to leave.
Officer Richard Bradley also talked about his recollections of the night, mentioning the deejay who was instructed to turn off the music, only complying after he was ordered to do so multiple times.
He was surprised by the number of patrons inside and outside the restaurant, saying it had to have been at least double the occupancy limit of 156 people.
He, too, said staff was uncooperative in helping to quell the scene and get people to leave.
Since that night Mr. Loewen said that Mr. McLaughlin has attempted to address these issues, utilizing an iPad to get a head count of customers.
Officers have been checking into the Boathouse every night as an additional precaution, he said.
Paul C. Glynn, the attorney representing Mr. McLaughlin, spoke on behalf of his client, saying his client had tried to assist police in quelling the scene that night.
He provided selectmen with a review of the surveillance tape, done by Detective Robert B. Murray, that showed a play-by-play of the night’s happenings. While it was an explosive situation at the Boathouse, Mr. Glynn said that Mr. McLaughlin did a good job in trying to diffuse the situation.
Mr. Glynn also said it was noted in Det. Murray’s comments that the Boathouse did not appear to be overcrowded at midnight, something Mr. McLaughlin later addressed by saying that many in the large crowd had been waiting to get in and had been in line outside the establishment.
At 12:08 AM, Mr. Glynn said, Mr. McLaughlin is seen on the tape stepping between the two men with guns—David Landry, 22, the other man, was later arrested by Mashpee police.
It only took about 14 more minutes, he said, after that confrontation for the Boathouse to be cleared. Bar staff, he said, were attempting to close out tabs in an effort to move patrons out.
“This is about Conor tonight, not about the crime committed,” Mr. Glynn stressed.
Selectman Kevin E. Murphy later disagreed with this statement. “This isn’t about Conor. This is about the actions and what happened that evening,” he said. “We are here to provide a road map to success so that your establishment continues to be a successful establishment.”
He suggested that Mr. McLaughlin consider such options as a dress code along with not allowing patrons to enter and exit his restaurant freely, as was shown on the surveillance video that night.
He also pointed out Mr. McLaughlin’s responsibility as a provider of alcohol. “Nobody knows more than me that as booze goes in, the brains go out,” Mr. Murphy said, urging the Boathouse staff to better monitor its patrons.
And while it is tempting to take in as many customers as possible, particularly during the Fourth of July weekend, Mr. Murphy called on Mr. McLaughlin to show better restraint.
Finally, he asked for Mr. McLaughlin to provide the board with an accurate seating plan and to identify where liquor can be served in his establishment, noting that the records are not clear on this.
He moved that selectmen continue the hearing until Monday, August 29, a motion that Chairman Mary (Pat) Flynn agreed to. She also wanted Mr. McLaughlin to provide the board with a written plan on how he would address the police department’s concerns of overcrowding, over serving, controlling patrons and staff cooperating with police, should the situation should arise again.
Mr. McLaughlin was apologetic, saying he has already taken steps to remove the types of clientele who contributed to the July 3 incident. This has included no longer utilizing the deejay who played that night to pursuing no-trespass orders against past patrons.
He also wanted to work with police to hire officers to patrol the lot at night, something that he said would be a deterrent for criminal activity.
Prior to voting, Mr. Murphy asked for input from Selectman David Braga, a former police officer. Mr. Braga wanted the board to take more extreme action as he pushed for a two-week suspension. He was the only one to vote against continuing the hearing to August 29, and after that vote he made a motion to suspend the Boathouse’s license for two weeks.
Mr. Murphy said even if the board passed such a motion, Mr. McLaughlin could appeal it and prolong the suspension for several months. He suggested the board work with the restaurant to ensure it is successful and is a safe place for patrons to go. “There is not an establishment in this town that wants this type of activity there,” he said.
The board eventually voted down Mr. Braga’s proposal.
While the board was relatively lenient with Mr. McLaughlin, Chief Riello stressed the severity of what happened on July 3. “We dodged a bullet that night, excuse the pun, but we did,” he said. “It was a bad scene that night and we’ve got to nip it in the bud before it gets to that point [again].”