“Block Island is not a place to get drunk and throw up,” he added.
The resort, located a short walk from where vacationers disembark from the Block Island ferry, has long been known as a party spot. The entertainment venue features a hotel, tiki bars, cabanas, beer pong tables, a private beach adjacent to the public beach, and oversized cocktails served in whole pineapples. It often hosts music festivals and concerts that draw large crowds.
Ballard’s opened on Water Street as a family restaurant in 1952.
“I’ve been coming here since 1954. Our big night was Ballard’s,” Brian Baker, a Connecticut resident and Block Island homeowner for 30 years, said at an emergency city council meeting on Thursday. . “We started coming when we were kids – family night, lobster night. It’s a parody.
Ballard’s is currently owned by Steven Filippi, a well-connected local businessman whose estranged brother, Blake Filippi, was until recently the House Minority Leader and Republican state congressman for the district. As Ballard’s grew from a family restaurant to a popular entertainment center, it gained a reputation for serving underage drinking and ignoring rude behavior and excessive drinking.
“People were drinking excessively and there was the arguments that went with it, people passing out, yelling at kids, staggering towards the ocean and the general drunkenness that followed,” one person wrote. on the Tripadvisor travel review website ten years ago, in August 2012.
Jessica Willi, executive director of the Block Island Tourism Council, told the Globe that there is currently a “lack of control” on the island due to several negative incidents so far this summer.
“I’ve had calls from parents saying they don’t want to bring their kids to Block Island because they don’t think it’s safe,” she said Friday. “And then we have to reassure them that they can come here.”
In addition to the brawl earlier this week, incidents alleged to have taken place at Ballard so far this year have included alcohol consumption by minors and an alleged sexual assault, which Rhode Island State Police and the Attorney General’s Office began to investigate in July. The alleged victim, who was reportedly a minor, refused to file a police report or press charges. On Thursday, Brian Hodge, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said the investigation into a sexual assault on the island was ongoing.
On Monday, the station hosted a free reggae music festival that started at noon and ended at 6 p.m., when liquor sales stopped. Steven Filippi told The Globe in an interview that 1,500 to 2,000 people attended the event and no violent incidents took place on his property.
“We’ve been doing this for five or six years now,” Filippi said on Tuesday. “It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary… There were no incidents or anything like that here at Ballard’s.
But cellphone video recorded at the event and shared with the Globe and on social media showed at least one fight during the reggae festival, and in interviews witnesses described others. And in an interview with Gene Valicenti of WPRO On Wednesday, Filippi said: “There’s been one arrest all year at Ballard’s for a fight and it was Monday. For the number of people who pass by Ballard’s in the summer, it’s very, very few… Everyone had a great time. There were no serious problems. As if no one left in an ambulance.
“What happened on the ferry, I have no control over it,” he added. “I don’t run the ferry. I don’t do security on the ferry. And I don’t think it’s fair to blame Ballard’s if it happened elsewhere.
Pawtucket’s Bruce Darelius told The Globe that the scene at Ballard’s on Monday was “utter chaos”. He recorded one fight on his phone, but said “there were three or four before that”.
“We just wanted to listen to music,” he said. “I think it was overcrowded. It was uncomfortable at times.”
Later that night, as hundreds of festival-goers piled onto ferries heading back to mainland Rhode Island, further fighting broke out, leading to several arrests and hospitalization. Members of the Coast Guard had to board a ferry, the MV Carol Jean, in open water in response to requests for assistance.
A few days later, Filippi announced that he was canceling the Roots and Rhythm festival, which was scheduled for August 21.
Filippi did not respond to The Globe’s requests for further comment.
On Thursday evening, New Shoreham City Council held an emergency meeting to deal with the incidents. In open comments, nearly two dozen people spoke out against the behavior at Ballard’s, alleging noise complaints, serving alcohol at miners, overcrowding and other “appalling” issues.
“Everyone has the right to make money for their business,” said Baker, whose family used to go to Ballard in the 1950s. “But the business has to be worthy.”
Monica Rales told City Council that she and her friends jumped the fence into Ballard’s house a recent night and said it was overcrowded. She left shortly after. “It looked like the perfect setting for something bad to happen,” she said.
In response to questions from The Globe, City Councilor Sven Risom and City Councilor André Boudreau issued a joint statement calling the situation “shocking” and “saddening.”
“As a council, we are committed to making Block Island a healthy community and a wonderful place to live and visit and are united in that goal,” the statement read.
In July, an undercover investigation revealed that Ballard’s and five other bars in the area were serving alcohol to minors. At a city council meeting after the sting, Filippi said he spent $3,500 on an ID scanner and confiscated 20 fake IDs over the weekend. Still, residents and business owners have expressed concerns about underage drinking, open liquor containers on the street, and public drunkenness. One resident called for bigger bars like Ballard’s to increase their security presence. Others criticized Filippi for promoting large alcoholic beverages in their ad campaigns.
“You’re not really focusing on the problem,” Filippi said at the July 25 board meeting. “It’s just a blame game.”
“We are dealing with 18 or 19 year olds who get off the ferry, backpack in hand, go around the island and drink,” Filippi said. “They try to come to Ballard’s, they try to go to other establishments. This is one of our biggest problems. »
In Providence, the city’s liquor licensing board oversees bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Bars that have repeated incidents of violence, fights, serving minors, or serving too many customers are subject to fines or may even be temporarily closed. Public meetings are held where the liquor licensing board can set parameters for reopening, such as requiring increased security.
“Anytime the public trust is shaken, I want a public meeting recorded,” said Dylan Conley, chairman of the Providence liquor licensing board. “It’s such a matter of public trust. Even if the licensee did nothing wrong… We don’t just say nothing and let it go.
But New Shoreham has a year-round population of less than 1,200 people. The city council also serves as the liquor licensing board, city clerk Millie McGinnes told The Globe. And Steve Filippi runs, unopposed, for a seat on the board.
“I’m a little worried about the timing of all of this… Election day is approaching and Steve Filippi is running unopposed for city council,” Andy Transue said at Thursday’s city council meeting. “How difficult is it going to be for you next summer to censor your fellow adviser?”
Jennifer McGee, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Business Regulations, told The Globe on Friday that the state acts as an appellate body in such cases, but does not normally step in to handle cases by itself. -even without the local liquor licensing board.
On Thursday, the city council turned to residents to be “part of the solution” and asked them to email videos, photos and statements to McGinnes. Submissions can be used to select witnesses for the city attorney to present to the liquor licensing board.
“I witnessed fights at Ballard’s… The only fights I’ve ever seen on the island,” Michael Aaron Capps, a hair and makeup artist who also lives in New York City, told City Council on Thursday. “When do we hold people accountable for literally trashing the island? From my point of view, it’s time. I hope you will act on it.
Alexa Gagosz can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz. Carlos Muñoz can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ReadCarlos and on Instagram @Carlosbrknews.