GILFORD — Selectmen last night voted to grant the Lakes Region Cafe & Tavern — the former King's Grant Inn — a live entertainment permit but not a so-called adult entertainment permit. Owner Will Drew, his business partner Tom Lyons, and his lawyer David Bownes had asked for both.
In a new twist to an old story, the latest town objection to nearly-naked dancers comes from the planning director, who noted in a memorandum addressed to Drew on September 23 that exotic entertainment was included in his last permit however it was a "non-conforming use pursuant to the provisions ... of the Gilford Zoning Ordinance."
Town Planner John Ayer wrote that a non-conforming use allowed to lapse for one year or more or that is superseded by a conforming use, may not be resumed. Translated, it means that if Drew and Lyons wants to have any adult entertainment on the premises, which included wet T-shirt contests, hot legs contests, and the like, he must go to the Gilford Zoning Board of Adjustments and appeal Ayer's decision. Selectmen had already "carved out" the exotic dancing portion of the approval.
According to materials distributed at last night's meeting, Fire Chief Steve Carrier has approved all of Drew's and Lyon's required place-of-assembly permits. There was no written or verbal communication offered last night from Acting Police Chief James Leach.
Drew was represented by Bownes at last night's meeting, who agreed to the conditions offered by selectmen, telling them he expected the liquor commission to issue the permit within a few weeks at the longest. He also assured the selectmen he would be taking the zoning restriction to the ZBA.
Selectmen also met Lyons, Drew's new partner, for the first time last night. He told them he lives in Hampton, is a commercial fisherman, and owns and operates a vending machine and video game company. Among his local clients, he said, is the Winnipesaukee Pier.
Lyons told selectmen he would be at the cafe six days a week and that he didn't expect to have live entertainment on Sundays but would likely have a sports night. Drew, who lives on the property in a separate home, said he too would be an active manager in the business. In its Mardi Gras North days, Drew leased the business to a company and played little to no day-to-day role in its management.
He also said the business would be run differently than the Mardi Gras North night club — a business that ended up the target of a N.H. Drug Task Force raid in October of 2011 that resulted in seven arrests, five of whom were strippers who worked or had worked at the club.
Four of the strippers were convicted or pleaded guilty to a variety of drug charges in Belknap County Superior Court and served or are serving sentences. At press time the outcome of one of the dancers and the two male patrons who were also arrested is unknown.
"It will be clean," Lyons said. "No Hell's Angels."
Lyons was likely referring to a rumor that spread through Gilford after the drug raid that identified the establishment as a popular spot for members of the motorcycle club. The truth or falsity of that rumor has never before been discussed in public and there is nothing unlawful about members of any motorcycle club patronizing any business.
He also assured selectmen that he runs a "tight ship" or people will be fired.
He also said he wasn't a fan of "the juke box crowd" but preferred live bands that draw a different kind of crowd.
Lyons told selectmen he and Drew deliberately chose to open the business in the fall so they could iron out the kinks before the busy summer season arrives that is traditionally kicked off by the annual Motorcycle Week in June.