In the 11 months before a man was shot and paralyzed outside Sangillo’s Tavern on Hampshire Street in Portland in late January, police recorded 11 fights associated with the small neighborhood pub, far more than some much larger bars.

Police are lobbying against renewing the bar’s liquor license, and say that police calls for fights and assaults are just one measure of how a bar can affect the safety of the public.

“We look at calls that have the potential of endangering public safety or endangering the peace of a neighborhood,” Assistant Chief Vern Malloch said.

The operator of the bar says it is a landmark in a busy neighborhood, a location people use in directing police, and that many of those calls may have nothing to do with how Sangillo’s is managed.

“We learned (that) simply … relying on raw data from the police department is not a valid indicator of the actual event,” said Harry Center, attorney for Sangillo’s. “The nature of that call may have nothing to do with the operation of the establishment.”

Portland city councilors plan to resume their deliberations Monday night on whether to renew Sangillo’s license.


Renewing the bar’s license has become a point of controversy since Jan. 28, when a 24-year-old was shot in the street outside at closing time and is unable to walk. Several of the people who had been inside the bar took off running when the shots were fired, though police caught up with several as they tried to leave the area.

That includes two people in the Rite Aid parking lot at 290 Congress St., where police found a .45-caliber handgun hidden beneath a dumpster.

Police now say that all of the people involved in the shooting had been inside the bar and the shooting was a continuation of a fight that started inside.

Nobody has been charged in the case.

In a March 17 presentation to the City Council, police said that Sangillo’s had 23 calls for service in less than a year.

The management of Sangillo’s requested records of the calls for service between Feb. 26, 2013, and Jan. 30, 2014, for its bar and three others: Bubba’s Sulky Lounge, Fore Play Sports Pub and The Oasis.


“We’re naturally concerned about fairness and equal treatment, so it was important to management and ownership of Sangillo’s to get a sense of whether they were being treated different than other establishments,” Center said.

Bubba’s Sulky Lounge had 39 calls for service compared to 26 for Sangillo’s. But nine of the calls to Bubba’s were for minor car accidents, drinking in public and possible drunken driving. There were four assaults recorded and one stabbing there. Sangillo’s had 11 calls for fights, not including the shooting, compared to two for Bubba’s Sulky Lounge.

Fore Play and the Oasis each had 17 calls for service and one each for fighting.

Malloch said police examine more than just the raw number of calls for service in gauging a bar’s impact on public safety.

“We do not have a bright line distinction about the number of times we get called to a bar on whether we recommend approval or denial of a license,” he said. “We’ve always shied away from that because we don’t want to discourage bars from calling.”

“If burglar alarms keep going off at 10 a.m. during the beer delivery, we’re not really concerned about it,” he said.


The Portland Press Herald requested calls for service for seven other bars as well, a random sampling of large and small bars. Of the group, RiRa Irish Pub had the most calls for service at 30, but six were for alarms going off and five for people using fake identification.

Amigo’s, Brian Boru’s and Bull Feeney’s each had four assaults reported during that period. Amigo’s had one fight, Bull Feeney’s two.

Malloch said that not only does the substance of calls vary significantly from incident to incident, but it is not a helpful gauge to compare a 30-seat bar to one that accommodates 250.

Howie’s Pub, which seats 50 people, reported one assault to police in that time span and no fights. Rosie’s Restaurant and Pub, which seats 59 people, had no assaults and no fights reported.

Failing to call police can earn a bar scrutiny as well.

One of the arguments in favor of closing Ice House Tavern, formerly Popeye’s, which used to operate on York Street, was that a patron was stabbed with a broken beer bottle and police didn’t learn of it until the hospital called to report the injured person in the emergency room. Police arrived at the bar to find workers cleaning up the blood.


Police met with Sangillo’s management during the summer in response to neighborhood complaints and recommended changes to address their concerns, Malloch said.

“We saw no change,” Malloch said. “The problems continued and escalated to the shooting, which happened to come at the end of the license period for them and we recommended denial.”

An email from Sangillo’s management says that all its bartenders have recently taken the TIPS alcohol training class, a requirement for the liquor license, some for the second time.

The management said it plans to have doormen working every night and a night manager on every evening. It also has discussed additional lighting outside with the building’s owner and has offered to host monthly neighborhood meetings to discuss concerns.

Many of the calls for service, especially for things like disturbing the peace, do not have backup police reports to explain what happened and tie them directly to the bar, according to documents included in the council’s packet.

“It’s clearly left to speculation as to whether or not any altercations in that area or neighborhood were caused by Sangillo’s patrons,” Center said.


In a memo to the council, Malloch said it is reasonable to assume that problems associated with intoxicated people near Sangillo’s at the bar’s closing time are related to bar patrons.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

Twitter: @Mainehenchman


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