A hearing to determine whether a Portland neighborhood bar will lose its liquor license began Thursday with a detailed examination of more than 20 calls for police service to the establishment last year, including a shooting on Jan. 28.

Sangillo’s Tavern is a family-owned bar on Hampshire Street, a place where people from across the spectrum of Portland society gather to watch NASCAR or football, or to catch up with friends. It also has been the subject of two to three times as many police calls as any other similar bar in the city.

Portland’s City Council voted 5-4 on May 19 not to renew Sangillo’s license. The bar has remained open pending its appeal to the state liquor board.

State law allows the licensing authority, which in Portland is the City Council, to consider the way the business is run and “whether the operation has endangered the safety of persons in or on areas surrounding the place of business.”

Thursday’s hearing started with a recitation by police Lt. Gary Hutcheson of the incidents in and around 18 Hampshire St. – fights, disorderly conduct and administrative violations for allegedly serving an underage person and allowing an underage person to be on the premises. Police say that despite warnings, the bar didn’t train its servers and didn’t regularly post a doorman – though the bar has since taken those steps.

Hutcheson also discussed the shooting in a parking lot outside the bar that left one man badly injured, which police say began as an argument in the bar.


“This shooting was connected to the patrons of the tavern and that shooting was the tipping point,” said city attorney Danielle West-Chuhta.

Hutcheson said that in four years of running the police department’s liquor oversight division, he has recommended that a license be denied only twice.

Tim Bryant, an attorney for Sangillo’s, said the council’s decision was based on inaccurate information, including police reports that attribute a number of calls for service to Sangillo’s when there is no evidence the bar was involved.

“There are an awful lot of problems in the neighborhood, but they’re not because of Sangillo’s,” he said.

Bryant said Sangillo’s is in a mixed-use area that is frequently traversed by homeless people and patrons leaving other bars. The Milestone Foundation, an emergency shelter for men with alcohol abuse problems, is roughly a block away.

About 20 people gathered in the audience, a few of whom spoke in support of the bar.


After hours of testimony by police, manager Kathleen Sangillo told the board that her grandparents came to America from Italy to make a better life for their children, and the bar is their legacy.

The bar has made improvements, she said, including installing a machine that checks identification to make sure it is authentic. Staffers also can determine whether a prospective patron has been banned from the bar by another employee.

Bryant said police will not identify the patron they claim was underage or the people he was with, saying it is part of the ongoing investigation, which Sangillo’s lawyers said makes it impossible for them to challenge the police claims.

The board planned to consider testimony from the hearing and issue a written decision at a later date.

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