The Dive

The Dive, a floating bar shown tied up to the Winnipesaukee Pier this summer, is suing the city of Laconia to stop its efforts to restrict its operations in Weirs Beach. (Daily Sun file photo)

LACONIA — A floating bar has taken the city to court, saying city efforts to restrict its operation in Weirs Beach are unlawful.

In a civil complaint filed in Belknap Superior Court, the Dive LLC argues the city has no right to regulate the business because the Dive — a two-story bar built onto a self-propelled barge — is a watercraft, and therefore not subject to local zoning and site plan regulations.

During the summer the Dive was often tied up to the Winnipesaukee Pier.

On July 1, City Planning Director Dean Trefethen sent a letter to the Winnipesaukee Pier, which stated that having the Dive tied up there constituted an expansion of the pier’s use, and so violated city zoning ordinance and site plan review regulations, requiring an amendment to the site plan for the property. On Aug. 21 the city sent another letter saying unless the operation ceased within 20 days it would take the Dive to court.

“The Dive is like other commercial vessels operating on New Hampshire waters,” the suit reads at one point. “The city is trying to regulate the Dive’s use of public waters. … Only the state has the authority to impose lake regulations.”

The city was notified of the legal action on Sept. 31. It now has until the end of the month to file its response to the claims made in the suit, according to Laura Spector-Morgan, the city’s attorney.

In addition to claiming that the Dive is exempt from local regulations, the Dive is also saying that the city did not follow the proper procedures in notifying the Dive or its attorney of the possibility of legal action.

The suit further says the Dive was not afforded the opportunity to appeal the city’s decision to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, as it maintains the law allows.

The Dive says the city is using legal action to pacify homeowners near the business’s in-port location who have complained about the “alleged noise view obstruction, impeding of boat traffic.”

In an article published in July in The Laconia Daily Sun, Brian Rillahan, who has a bird's-eye view of the Dive from his residence on Simpson Avenue, complained, among other things, about the revolving, lighted sign which shines into neighbors’ homes, as well as noise caused by boisterous patrons. He said after receiving complaints, the Dive started turning off its music at 9 or 10 p.m., depending on the day of the week.

But the suit insists any complaints about the Dive “are wholly without merit.”

Contrary to being a nuisance, the Dive’s operation is "consistent with other tourists activities in Weirs Beach, catering to dining and recreational needs,” the suit maintains.

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