GILFORD — The owner of the former Kings Grant Inn has applied for a live entertainment license that if granted will allow so-called adult entertainment that includes near-naked dance performances.
Willard Drew and his news business partner Tom Lyons have formed the Lakes Region Cafe & Tavern and submitted their application on September 16. Town Administrator Scott Dunn said the application will be on the Selectboard agenda when it meets Wednesday night.
In October of 2011, state narcotics agents accompanied by two SWAT Teams, nearly the entire Gilford Police Department, and all three selectmen and other civilian town employees raided what was then called Mardi Gras North after an undercover investigation by members of the former New Hampshire Drug Task Force.
Task force members said they had purchased a variety of illegal drugs from the female entertainers over the course of their investigation. On the night of the raid, two of the five women targeted by police plus one woman who was entertaining that night were arrested at the bar.
Two other female entertainers along with two male patrons were arrested the same night by cooperating police in Franklin, Tilton, and Holderness.
All five women were convicted or pleaded guilty to some drug violations stemming from the DTF investigation and all served some time in either the Belknap County House of Corrections or the N.H. State Prison.
The raid and it's subsequent fallout led to Drew having his liquor license suspended by the N.H. Board of Liquor Commissioners at the request of selectmen. The commission held an inquiry into charges that included that he allowed his business to be used for unlawful activities. The liquor violation stemmed from activities witnessed by members of the DTF.
After a three-day hearing before the Liquor Commission in July of 2012, Drew — who is the holder of the liquor license Mardi Gras North was operating under — was exonerated of the most serious charge of allowing his business to be used for unlawful activities.
The commissioners found him responsible for over-serving a patron — for which he received the three-day suspension and a $150 fine; for having an employee consume alcohol while working — for which he was fined $100; and for giving away a free drink — for which he was fined $100.
During this time, selectmen revamped the town's live entertainment ordinance and included a provision that the holders of liquor licenses must be the operators of a nightclub in order to have live and/or adult entertainment. Owners are not allowed to lease the club to a different entity.
The ordinance also requires buildings where there is live entertainment to undergo a safety inspection by the town's fire chief and code enforcement officer.
The police chief will determine if uniformed officers will be required. All uniformed officers are paid for by the holder of the permit. The Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook is an example of a live entertainment permit holder being required to provide uniformed police officers at its events.
After he made substantial upgrades to the building and after closing for his three-day license suspension, Drew reapplied for a live entertainment license in late July of 2012 but selectmen voted 2-to-1 to given him his requested license but only if he excluded near-naked dancers.
He stayed open for a while but for the past year the club has been closed.