Live entertainment, yes, but strippers will have to wait

GILFORD — Selectmen voted unanimously to give the Lakes Region Cafe and Tavern — the former King's Grant Inn — a live entertainment license with the exclusion of so-called exotic dancing.

Selectmen said exotic entertainment was left out of the license because owner Willard Drew hadn't answered three questions posed by Town Administrator Scott Dunn regarding how Drew and his business partner Tom Lyons planned on preventing illegal drug activity that led to a raid on the premises — then doing business as Mardis Gras North — in October of 2011.

The questions are what steps Drew and Lyons will take to ensure exotic dancers won't be selling drugs; how Drew and Lyons will provide safety for the dancers in the private show area; and how Drew and Lyons will prevent a recurrence of the issues that led to a drug raid by state narcotics officers in October of 2011.

"Frankly I'm disheartened we won't be discussing exotic dancing," said Attorney David Bownes last night. Bownes represents Drew and Lyons.

He said that when Drew re-opened his club last during the summer of 2012, he had to answer 14 questions posed by selectmen and the three questions that Dunn said weren't answered to his satisfaction were included in the first explanation.

Bownes said he only received Dunn's questions earlier in the day and hadn't yet had a chance to reply in writing, even though he contends Drew and Lyons have answered the question. "You've heard it before," Bownes said.

It's been a long and winding road for Drew to reopen the building since the raid on Mardi Gras North, which was leased to a separate business in which Drew had no active participation.

Initially, Drew had to repair the damage done to the inside of his building by members of two SWAT Teams who conducted the raid with the N.H. Drug Task Force and the Gilford Police. Holes were smashed in walls and locked coolers and a safe were forcibly opened even though the manager at the time said she offered keys for the locks. The video security system was ripped out and all of the operating cash was seized by the N.H. State Police.

Although the owners of the Mardi Gras vacated the building, it was Drew who had to face the N.H. Liquor Commission that, after a three-day hearing, revoked his license for three days for three separate offenses of over-serving one customer, of serving a drink to a dancer who was working, and of giving away a free drink. He was exonerated of the most serious charge of allowing his building to be used for criminal activity.

Drew fixed the damage and upgraded the inside to meet the Fire Department and code enforcement requirements and reopened in late July of 2012. He closed the club in September and has remained closed for all of 2013 — even though he had a valid license to operate, without exotic dancing.

Bownes said he hopes the exotic dancing matter will be placed on the selectmen's agenda in November and said he is prepared to address their three questions as well as the First Amendment and other concerns about exotic dancing.

He also said he would respond to the three questions in writing before November and will send copies individually to all three selectmen.

In a separate action, the board also voted unanimously to allow the Lakes Region Cafe and Tavern sell alcohol as soon as the N.H. Liquor Commission issues the liquor license and a copy of it is filed with Dunn at the Town Offices.

Bownes said last night that the building inspector had inspected the property yesterday and the health inspector was scheduled to come within the next few days. He said once those inspections are complete Drew and Lyons should have their liquor license as soon as late this week or early next week.