SANFORD — A divided Town Council issued new liquor and business licenses to a local caterer Tuesday night after he apologized for hosting monthly sex parties at a popular banquet hall.

The council voted 4-3 to grant licenses to James U. Colley for one year and review them after six months. If he violates the licenses again, they may be revoked.

The council acted a little more than a week after town officials ordered James and Susan Colley, license holders for Great Beginnings Catering at Mousam View Place, to stop renting the hall at 47 High St. to a Web-based swingers’ club.

Colley, 56, of Springvale, applied for new liquor, food, dance and entertainment licenses Oct. 12, just three days before undercover police officers investigated one of the parties and saw about 40 people openly engaged in a variety of sexual acts.

License regulations prohibit nudity or sexual performances on the premises, and town zoning doesn’t allow adult businesses. The parties were held at the former Knights of Columbus hall in July, August and October.

“I believe in tolerance, forgiveness and second chances,” said Councilor Bradford Littlefield, who recommended the probationary period.

Littlefield said the council shouldn’t “pile on” Colley and put him out of business, but rather let members of the public decide with their dollars. He said he expected Colley to go out of business anyway.

Councilors Ken Burgess, Joseph Hanslip and Richard Wilkins voted with Littlefield.

“I think what happens between consenting adults is their business,” Hanslip said, noting that if the swingers had “invited people into their homes and pulled their shades,” the parties wouldn’t be an issue.

“Other businesses have violated codes and were afforded second chances,” Hanslip said after the meeting. “I take Jim Colley at his word that the activity which violates town codes will not occur again. I wish him well in his business endeavors.”

Burgess questioned whether the town’s ordinances are clear.

“I may not agree with it morally, but I feel it’s live and let live,” he said after the meeting. “People are appalled by a lot of things, but a whole bunch of people make up this world.”

The vote disappointed councilors Anne-Marie Mastraccio and Alan Walsh, who delivered angry speeches against issuing the licenses.

“If you have a license, it behooves you to know what will violate it,” Mastraccio said, adding that if Colley didn’t “knowingly” violate ordinances, then he did so “stupidly.”

Mastraccio said she resented being made to feel responsible for putting Colley out of business. “He put himself in this position,” she said. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Walsh urged the council to honor its charge to uphold ordinances, not issue second chances.

“This application violates every frickin’ aspect of the ordinance,” Walsh said.

After the meeting, Walsh received a call on his cellphone from an unhappy constituent while he was still in the council chamber. He apologized to the caller for the outcome. “People are upset,” he said.

Council Chairman Gordon Paul also voted against issuing the licenses.

Colley sought the licenses under a new business name, Fresh Start Catering. Susan Colley told the Journal Tribune she hasn’t been involved in the business for more than a year.

The banquet hall is owned by a Massachusetts real estate holding company. Colley is a tenant.

Colley was the only person who spoke during the public hearing on his license applications. He stood before the council and read a brief prepared statement, his voice shaking with emotion.

“I realize I made a monumental business error,” Colley said. “I apologize for that.”

Colley said he hoped to resume a decade-long “working relationship” with town officials and noted that he has several events scheduled at the hall through the end of the year.

“Again,” Colley said, “I’m very sorry.”

Colley declined to comment after the council meeting.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]