A Superior Court judge has determined the town acted appropriately in ordering a reduction of hours for Scioli's Pizza Bar, for a six-month period. The town ordered the hours reduction following an assault reported at Scioli's in March 2012, involving a then-employee, in which two patrons were injured.
The Jan. 25 decision to uphold the town's punishment follows a September court hearing, in which the owners of the pizza bar and restaurant argued that the town punishment was arbitrary, and excessive. The attorney for owner Stephen Scioli told the court he could not have predicted his employee, a bouncer, would strike two patrons who were in the parking lot after being told to leave. One of the customers had reconstructive surgery for an injury to his orbital bone.
In his order, Superior Judge James Lemire wrote: "It was not an error of law for the board to conclude that Scioli's permitted a disorder, disturbance or illegality. While it is true that there was no evidence at the hearing that Scioli expressing approved of the seemingly unexpected action of [bouncer Paul] Casasanta, the cases discussed above have not interpreted the regulation's permit language to require such approval."
In his order, Lemire also found the bar had not presented evidence that Milford was treating it unfairly, compared to other businesses. In the Milford Selectmen's hearing on the alcohol license, Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin presented evidence that that Scioli's had 33 incidents from 2010 through the first three months of 2012, with one call placed by Scioli's staff. By comparison, PiNZ had 21 calls for police assistance, with a third of the calls placed by staff.
"The plaintiff argues that other Milford establishments had similar calls to police as Scioli's, but have not been forced to reduce their hours," Lemire wrote. "The record, however, does not support the plaintiff's contention. The documents produced by the Milford Police Chief support his testimony that Scioli's had more calls than the other establishments. The records also do not reflect any incident at the other establishments where a bouncer assaults a patron, or similar incidents."
Louis Cassis, the attorney for Scioli's owners, has said that a forced reduction in operating hours would effectively close the business, because patrons will not go to a bar that will shut its doors two hours earlier than other bars.
On Monday, Cassis said he "disagreed" with the court's decision, but said he had not yet had a chance to speak with his client. There are always avenues for appeal, Cassis said, but he is not sure if Scioli wants to pursue the matter.
In April, the Milford Selectmen voted 2-0 to reduce the operating hours for the restaurant and bar, requiring it to close at 11 p.m. instead of at 1 a.m. The punishment has been stayed while Scioli's appealed the decision in Worcester Superior Court. The Board also ordered a three-week license suspension for the business.
Scioli's has also appealed the board's decision to suspend the liquor license. That appeal was made in July before the state's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which upheld the town. It is now before another Worcester Superior Court judge on appeal.
The criminal case involving Casasanta, the former bouncer, is pending at Milford District Court.
Casasanta, 33, of Uxbridge, was arrested on two counts of assault and battery, and one count of aggravated assault and battery, resulting in serous injury. He was released and is next scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 22.