WORCESTER — An attorney for Scioli's Pizza Bar argued Tuesday that town selectmen intended to put the bar out of business when members approved a six-month reduction in business hours.
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 appeals the decision in Worcester Superior Court.
Scioli's has also appealed the board's decision to suspend the liquor license for the business for three weeks. That appeal was made in July before the state's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which has not reached a decision.
The town sanctions following a hearing in which selectmen reviewed testimony from police, customers, and the owner of the restaurant, about a March 24 incident that left two customers hospitalized with serious injury.
A former bouncer at Scioli's, Paul Cassansanta, has been charged with assault after police say he punched two customers in the parking area outside the bar. The incident occurred after one of the customers had been told to leave. After the two customers were on the ground, witnesses told police other people kicked at them.
In court Tuesday, attorney Louis Cassis, who represents the restaurant owner, said the town's decision to reduce the operating hours was "arbitrary and capricious" and will effectively shut the business down, because customers will not go to a place that shuts down early. "They're going to go to the place that's open until 1 a.m.," Cassis said.
Scioli's, which has been open for two-and-a-half years, has never before had a violation that required a hearing before the selectmen, and had never had a violation before the ABCC.
The owner did not permit, or allow, the assault to occur and did not have any reason to think it would happen, Cassis argued. "Does the board [of selectmen] have a right to put this guy out of business, and nobody else?"
The town is represented by town counsel Gerald Moody, who said the board decision is not isolated, in that the town has previously taken similar actions against restaurants. In one case, Moody said, the town ordered a permanent rollback of hours for an establishment.
The Scioli's decision came as a result of a serious incident involving a violation of the state's regulations concerning the serving of alcohol, Moody said. And it involved an employee of the company.
In addition, he told Superior Judge James Lemire, the owner of the restaurant failed to notify police of the incident. The call on March 24 to 911 came from a customer. Police only learned a second person had been seriously injured two days later, Moody said.
"This was an incredibly serious incident," he said.
Lemire took the case under advisement. A copy of the DVD of the town hearing and a transcript of that meeting have been provided to him, as part of the town's filings.