The popular Block Island hostel, restaurant and bar are facing backlash after a fight at a crowded reggae music festival on August 8 led to arrests at the venue and later on the ferry of Block Island. But this isn’t the first time Ballard’s has faced rowdy and drunkenness complaints on the premises. There have been 49 calls to the police or fire department over disorderly driving, noise and other issues at the site since May 1.
When asked after the hearing if they would file a temporary restraining order against the council’s decision, Ballard owner Steven Filippi and his lawyers declined to comment. James Callaghan of Callaghan & Callaghan in North Kingstown, who represent New Shoreham, said he expects Filippi and his team “to do something very soon”.
The show cause hearing began at 5 p.m. with a decision by entertainment venue attorney Brian LaPlante of LaPlante Sowa Goldman in Cranston to completely derail the hearing.
“The commissioners have actively solicited against Ballard’s, made statements adverse to Ballard’s and displayed your bias against my client,” LaPlante told more than 100 people at New Shoreham Town Hall and more than 600 watching the live stream.
LaPlante claimed that the Board of License Commissioners, which is made up of the five members of New Shoreham City Council, made biased comments about Ballard during an Aug. 11 city council meeting, where members of the public are pronounced against the popular seaside resort. recent incidents. LaPlante also claimed Filippi never received notice of the Aug. 11 meeting and accused city council members of telling the public how they could “advocate” for or against Ballard’s.
But the hearing moved on and Peter Chabot, the former acting chief of police for Block Island, was called as the city’s first witness.
Chabot, who is a captain with the Rhode Island State Police, said when he arrived at Ballard’s on Aug. 8, he observed “several groups of individuals yelling at each other” and people jumping around. over the fence to enter the room. a free reggae music festival scheduled from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. that day.
By the time Ballard’s ended the festival – at 6 p.m., an hour earlier – Chabot said there were “over 3,000” people leaving Ballard’s to board the Block Island Ferry. He described the crowd as “hot, tired, frustrated”. As they waited to board the ferries, which quickly reached capacity, he said the crowds were “extremely chaotic. Tumultuous. There were several verbal altercations.
LaPlante cross-examined Chabot for more than an hour, asking him if the events of August 8 were “mixed up in his head” and asking him detailed questions about the ferry system to and from the island. Callaghan repeatedly objected during cross-examination.
Three and a half hours into the show cause hearing, LaPlante called Filippi to testify.
In preparation for the August 8 reggae festival, Filippi said he spoke to his security chief, Vin Carlone, who was previously New Shoreham’s police chief. “He wasn’t worried about it. I felt the same,” Filippi said. Filippi also said he spoke to Chabot over the weekend and that Chabot suggested that Ballard bring in more security and allow people to slowly enter the venue, so security can check rooms. identity and inspect their bags.
“I said okay. We will register them. And we will register them slowly,” Filippi said. “That’s why people started coming over the fence. Because we were doing it so slowly.
Filippi also said festival-goers received a wristband to show they were 21 or older. At 2:15 p.m. Ballard’s was so crowded that people were only allowed in if an equal number of people were leaving.
“It wasn’t out of control,” Filippi said, adding that describing the event as “out of control” was “unfair”.
“It’s a shame that 25 seconds ruined an entire day,” he said, referring to video of people fighting during the event. “Let’s hope this never happens again.”
Filippi said he spent $25,000 to $30,000 this year on the reggae festival, which was free to entice people to attend. But “It’s done, it’s dead,” Filippi said of the reggae festival. “And everyone should know that.”
Adam Mancini, of Stonington, Conn., testified that he attended the reggae festival with about seven other people. They rented a cabin from Ballard, but when they decided to leave, they encountered a group of people in a fight.
Mancini said he had been to Ballard before and enjoyed it. But after the Aug. 8 event, “I’m not interested in going back,” he said.
Christine “Nikki” Newman testified in favor of Ballard’s, saying that despite numerous reports of overcrowding and tension at the site, she believed there was “nothing overcrowded about it”.
“There was never anyone too drunk. There weren’t a lot of drunk people there,” she said. Newman said she believed the real problem was with the ferry. When cross-examined, she said she did not witness any fights, arguments or altercations, but did see an incident involving a girl who allegedly had a panic attack. , she admitted that she knew both Filippi and Carlone, the head of security at Ballard.
“I guess I’m pro-Ballard. I am pro-Block Island,” she said.
State Trooper Damien Maddox, who has been stationed on Block Island for the past few summers, described encountering a group queuing to enter the station while carrying expensive booze, and seeing a “rush people” – around 100 – cross the fence to get in without having their bags searched or their IDs checked.
A video taken from social media was released by the city that showed a woman carrying a beach chair, walking over the fence leading to Ballard just behind State Trooper Arnaldo De Lacerda Dju. The soldier said he was the only person guarding the fence. De Lacerda Dju described having to settle several altercations around the Ballard property and the Block Island ferry dock, which is a short walk from the resort.
Robert Barroll, who works for the Block Island Express ferry to and from New London, Conn., said he’s seen customers leaving Ballard’s with drinks in hand. He said the majority of people wore wristbands, had Ballard’s reggae t-shirts and dropped containers of the “huge frozen drinks” that “only Ballard’s sells”.
“Once they are done with [their drinks] they would drop them on the concrete,” he said. “Every 20 minutes or so we would walk the line and pick up the litter on the floor. I started bringing a trash can and asking people to give me their trash.
“I had never done this before,” Barroll said.
Filippi said no one in town ordered him to cancel the event, that he had no control over the ferries that bring Ballard customers back to the mainland, nor did he control the police on how and when they made arrests.
“It’s a shame that 10 people… spoil everyone,” Filippi said. “You’re trying to hold a free festival…You’re trying to do the right thing.”
City attorney James Callaghan said Ballard’s both violated the terms of its liquor and entertainment licenses and posed a danger to the public.
In his closing arguments, LaPlante insisted that despite nearly six hours of testimony, video footage and cross-examination, there was “no evidence” that Ballard overserved alcohol or served underage people. That day.
Members of the Board of License Commissioners disagreed, voting unanimously to suspend the station’s license for 14 days.
This story has been updated to include additional information about the station’s sanction.
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.