On Thursday, Aug. 30, the Madison Beach Hotel invited the British rock band, The Fixx, to the town-owned land called the Grassy Strip next to the hotel--land that the hotel is leasing from the town--to entertain friends, neighbors, hotel guests, town residents and Fixx fans from as far away as New Haven and Meriden at a free concert.
Later that night, just before 10 p.m., Middle Beach Road resident Emile J. Geisenheimer sent an email to the duty supervisor at the Madison Police Department, complaining about the noise.
The next day, Geisenheimer, who used to be the police commissioner in town, met with and gave a written statement to one of the newest members of the Madison police department, , second in command to .
Geisenheimer points to Zoning Board of Appeals variance restrictions
"Among other things, he stated that there have been ongoing noise issues during the Thursday night concerts at the hotel," Rich wrote in the case/incident report.
Geisenheimer "stated he is aware of the zoning variance for the hotel which allows outdoor events, and the terms of the variance. He stated the variance prohibits additional outdoor lighting, sound amplification that can be heard more than 50 feet away, alcohol consumption, and limits the number of attendees to 120," the case/incident report says. "He stated that he took photos and videos which depict additional lighting, approximately 300 people in attendance, and alcohol being served. He stated the music could be heard at his residence, which is about 1/2 mile away."
Douglas Crowley, who lives on Middle Beach Road, and Charles Stone, who lives on Middle Beach West, joined Geisenheimer in making a complaint. Crowley said the noise was so loud he and his wife could not eat dinner on their porch. He called Madison police to complain about the noise. Stone also complained the noise was so loud he could not have a conversation on his porch. "He stated he calle the hotel to complain but go no satisfaction, so he called the police. He stated he would like to support the hotel, but that he deserves some protection from the noise."
Case/incident report says Mathers said alcohol is prohibited
The police report says later that day, on the Friday after the Thursday night concert, Rich spoke with John Mathers, the manager of Madison Beach Hotel, the town's largest employer and one of its largest taxpayers that has also been the subject of numerous complaints on zoning and land issues since it reopened earlier this year after it was rebuilt.
Mathers told Rich the concert drew about 500 attendees, that the concert was free, that the hotel provided a free shuttle service to alleviate parking issues, and that the hotel hired a Madison police officer, Officer Benjamin Hoffman, to direct traffic to overflow areas.
"Mr. Mathers further indicated that people are allowed to bring their own food, but alcohol is prohibited," the case/incident report says. "He believes that some attendees may have brought alcohol to the event but he did not bring it to the attention of the officer because the officer was busy with traffic."
Mathers told Commander Rich that he did know about the noise complaints from Middle Beach and, as a result, had relocated the stage area and faced the stage towards the west.
Mathers holds hotel liquor permit and caterer liquor permit
Mathers is the holder of two liquor permits for The Wharf/Madison Beach Hotel of Florida LLC, according to records in town hall.
One permit is a hotel liquor license (50,000 or less population), which allows for "the retail sale of alcoholic liquor to be consumed on the premises of a hotel" and the other is a caterer permit, which allows "a person regularly engaged in the business of providing food and beverages to others for service at private gatherings or at special events to sell and serve alcoholic liquor for on-premises consumption at any activity, event or function for which such person has been hired."
[See accompanying PDF for additional details and restrictions associated with each permit.]
"We believe we are fully and strictly complaint"
“We have been informed of a complaint regarding draft beer being served on the property of the Madison Beach Hotel," Mathers said in a prepared statement released Wednesday. "This occurred during a scheduled free music event hosted by the hotel for our neighbors in the greater Shoreline community.
"We believe we are fully and strictly compliant with all rules and regulations in the safe, lawful dispensing of food and beverages, and have received no notice of violation from either town leadership or from any state agency.
"We take great care in providing a safe and secure environment for our guests and neighbors and will continue to do so in a manner consistent with these high standards.”
DeLaura has no plans at this time to issue an informal notice of violation to the hotel
On the Friday afternoon after the concert, the case/incident report says, Rich spoke with Madison Zoning Enforcement Officer John DeLaura.
"We discussed the situation and he had already received a complaint and video of the concert from Emile Geisenheimer," the case/incident report said. "Delaura stated he was going to issue the hotel and informal notice of violation for exceeding the number of attendees allowed at the event." The case/incident report, which was submitted to the state Liquor Control Commission also said "Administrative Action to be taken by the Town of Madison."
But DeLaura that he did not have plans to issue a notice of violation. He said he did receive and review complaints from about two or three people, along with maybe about a half dozen emails. He said he had reviewed the information with the town attorney and did not plan to issue a letter of non-compliance to the hotel about the complaints.
Hotel operating with both the ZBA variance for restaurant/hotel and lease agreement for Grassy Strip
DeLaura noted at the time that the hotel was operating with both the ZBA variance for the hotel/restaurant, and with a lease agreement for the Grassy Strip.
The ZBA variance for the hotel/restaurant notes that the "approved use is limited to the hotel, restaurant, bar/lounge, and banquet/conference use as defined and represented in the application." It explicitly states restrictions relating to noise and lights, and discusses the serving of alcohol.
The license agreement between the hotel and the town for use of the land upon which the concert was held, commonly referred to as the Grassy Strip, does not mention alcohol at all, The license agreement says the "Grassy Area shall retain its designation as a public park under the jurisdiction of the Department ... " and it also says "Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as authorizing or granting rights to MBH or Ventures to use their respective properties in a manner that violates any law, regulation, ordinance, permit or government approval."
"No plan for a written informal notice"
DeLaura, who met with hotel officials and other town officials at town hall Wednesday, said that he did not have any plans to issue a notice of violation. "As a result of a meeting with the hotel I continue to be optimistic and continue to look forward to a cooperative resolution.
"As of this minute there is no plan for a written informal notice, however if a habitual violation were to be established and properly documented that would require a notice."
"The standard procedure for an informal notice would be by way of a verbal notice, an informal letter, or a written Informal Notice of Zoning Violation," DeLaura said in an email to Patch. None of those are planned at this time, he said.
Chief Drumm directs Commander Rich to prepare referral
On the Friday afternoon after the concert, Madison Police Commander Rich viewed the video sent to Madison Police Chief Drumm by Geisenheimer.
"The video clearly shows a female beverage server walking through the crowd with a tray containing cups of beer. The video shows her serving beer to a male attendee in exchange for cash. The area where she is serving beer is not hotel property, but the property of the town of Madison," the case/incident report says.
"Based on these actions at the event, Chief Jack Drumm directed me to prepare a referral to the state Liquor Control Division, alleging a violation of the hotel's permit to serve alcoholic beverages," the case/incident report says.
"The investigation will be reopened in the event of complaints of a similar nature"
"On August 31, 2012, Chief Drumm consulted with the New Haven State's Attorney's Office, who will not be pursuing a charge of Breach of Peace at this time. This investigation will be reopened in the event of complaints of a similar nature," the case/incident report says.
"In my initial meeting with Hotel Manager John Mathers, he did not advise me that hotel staff members were serving alcoholic beverages on the lawn area off the hotel premises. In a subsequent conversation with Chief Drumm on 9/03/12, Mr. Mathers concurred that a staff member was serving drinks, as depicted in this video provided by complainant Emile Geisenheimer."
The law enforcement referral was prepared and forwarded to the state of Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, Liquor Control Division, "alleging a violation of Section 30-21 of the Connecticut General Statutes, based on the hotel staff serving liquor off the hotel premise," the case/incident report says.