The Walpole Board of Selectmen handed the Walpole Mall's Chili's Grill and Bar a two-day suspension of their liquor license for serving alcohol to a minor, at a hearing Tuesday night.
Chili's was the only licensed establishment in town that failed an alcohol compliance sting operation by the Walpole Police Department on Aug. 30.
Chili's general manager Casey Bourret was on hand to accept the punishment and to inform the board that the two-day suspension would be served Sunday, Oct. 14 and Monday, Oct. 15.
The selectmen had strong words for the operators of the chain restaurant warning that another violation would result in a much harsher punishment.
“As a business in our community, one that sells alcohol, we do not expect to see you here again, because the penalty the next time will be of a magnitude that you cannot even begin to believe,” said Selectmen chair Eric Kraus. “This is your one penalty for this and please come with other business before this board, but do not come on another violation.”
Selectmen Mark Gallivan said, “I would just say as the representatives of the town government we look to you to enforce liquor license law and we take that very seriously, as you know. And I just want you to go back and remind the people that work for you in the bar that the town is keeping an eye on you at this point. We’re glad that you’re in town and we’re glad that you’re doing business here but we really want you to enforce the law, it’s important to us.
"I have younger kids, a lot of us have kids and the people in the town look to the board of selectmen to ensure that these laws are enforced. We want to make sure that happens.”
Bourret said that Chili's takes the violation seriously and that they have taken steps to try to avoid similar situations in the future.
"The employee that did the act was terminated the same evening," said Bourret. "Since then we’ve trained all of our employees to be responsible with alcohol service, so we’ve definitely taken it seriously. I won’t be back.”
Bourret then presented the Selectmen with a check for $1,000 to go to the Walpole Coalition For Drug & Alcohol Awareness to help fund future sting operations for alcohol compliance.
Last year, police conducted a compliance check and seven businesses in town failed.
Deputy Police Chief John Carmichael said, "We were aiming for zero this year, we got the one, and our goal when we do this, part of it is educational, especially with the coalition. We want to keep sending this message out that this kind of stuff is not going to be tolerated."
After the hearing, resident Joe Moraski spoke out about what he thought was too lenient a punishment and supported a relationship with the restaurant and the coalition.
“I’ve started to attend some of the coalition meetings and it’s become priority number one in my heart to see their work accomplished,” he said. “We now need to put this in high gear and make it a priority second-to-none in the town.”
Kraus said, “The $1,000 was not a part of the penalty. It was Chili's show of support for the Coalition, so that was separate to the two-day suspension and was not suggested by the board of selectmen or the town administrator.”
Kraus said that the two-day suspension was decided during the last sting operation and they wanted to be consistent with first time violators.
“At the end of the day, we want it to work,” he said.