BRUNSWICK — The Town Council unanimously approved a prohibition on smoking and vaping at various public properties, including the Town Mall, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Councilors July 1 also approved an alcoholic beverage license for Benchwarmers, despite concerns from police about disturbances at the sports bar.

Brunswick Town Hall. File

The ban, which goes into effect July 31, prohibits smoking on school property, sidewalks within 20 feet of parks and recreation property, on Maine Street from Bath Road to the Androscoggin River, and within 20 feet of school and public bus stops.

People found smoking on prohibited properties will first be issued a verbal warning from the Police Department, effective for 90 days. After that, violators will be subject to a $50 civil fine, similar to a parking ticket.

The new ordinance replaces a resolution approved in 2002 that recommended individuals refrain from smoking and vaping on property owned by the Parks and Recreation Department, which included sports fields. However, a town resolution cannot be legally enforced, since it is only a recommendation.

Following the original proposal of the ordinance in April, Tom Farrell, director of parks and recreation, received support from several organizations, including businesses near downtown and Mid Coast Hospital, which helped get the process off the ground. He said support came after an increase in complaints from parents about adults smoking at school bus stops where children congregate.

The vote to pass was unanimous, with Councilor Christopher Watkinson absent.

Councilor Kathy Wilson pushed for the ordinance after attending a recent Music on the Mall event where she said she inhaled smoke from a person on the sidewalk nearby, in compliance with the resolution.

“He was doing everything right, but I was still inhaling his smoke, so I decided to take action and push for more to be done,” Wilson said. “I think this ordinance is going to be wonderful and a beautiful draw to Brunswick.”

Benchwarmers

After several complaints during the last year, police requested a public hearing to discuss renewal of the alcoholic beverage license for Benchwarmers, at 212 Maine St.

“Several months ago, we started to notice a pattern of disturbance calls to Benchwarmers,” patrol Cmdr. Tom Garrepy told councilors. “From June of last year through April 18, we’ve had seven calls for disturbances.”

Following complaints on April 14 and May 18, Garrepy said he called in Darcie Couture, who described herself at the meeting July 1 as the “liquor license holder” for Benchwarmers, to discuss his concerns with the increase in disturbances, which included assaults and complaints about customer inebriation. Couture also received five administrative summonses.

“One of those calls contained five arrests in one night, so we decided that something needed to be done.” Garrepy said. “We had a very productive conversation with Couture and staff. We want to ensure that everyone is being given the benefit of the doubt and we want to help this establishment get better.”

Garrepy said police worked with staff and management at Benchwarmers to change some practices, including keeping an incident log at the bar to document intoxicated patrons who needed rides, and maintaining adequate and trained staff to avoid overserving.

From the bar’s perspective, Couture said, “We had a few issues with some inexperienced or new officers being aggressive. We made a witness report explaining that, and suddenly Benchwarmers was under all sorts of extra attention from the Brunswick Police Department for a period of time.”

She said she hopes Benchwarmers will receive its license renewal without being “singled out” with conditions attached.

Although the council discussed amending the ordinance for all liquor licenses to require many of the changes that the Police Department suggested – including alcohol training for servers, maintaining an adequate staff and keeping an incident log – it ultimately approved the renewal for Benchwarmers by a vote of 7-1, with Councilor Jane Millett opposed. Millett wanted to see stipulations tacked onto the license

“I am taking this seriously,” Couture said. “We’ve had a bouncer, and all of our servers have gone through the appropriate training. I will take all of their recommendations and hope that this will make this a better place.”


Comments are not available on this story.