Great American Tavern came before the Board of Selectmen Monday to add four video games at the restaurant and clear up a clerical error on the part of the town – but they heard an earful of neighbors' complaints about patrons’ noise, parking issues and the location’s lights shining into nearby windows.
Great American Tavern owner Robert Palmer said the Board of Selectmen already approved a 706 square-foot patio area with 20 chairs as part of its initial plans. However, the patio was left off the plans at the backend because of a town clerical error after the selectmen approved it.
Palmer came before the board Monday to ask for another vote on the patio as well as approve four video games for the Main Street business. However, a number of neighbors came to the meeting to voice concern about the noise levels at the restaurant – both the patrons who smoke outside the restaurant and the noise of patrons at closing time:
- Residents of Pluff Avenue, which is behind the restaurant, complained about noise from the restaurant and people leaving the eatery at closing as well as car headlights shining in windows.
- A Brooks Road resident complained about the music at the restaurant after midnight and that adding patio seating will take away the neighborhood’s peaceful summer nights.
- A nearby business owner said Great American’s overflow parking is winding up on his property.
After hearing the complaints, Palmer said he wanted to work with neighbors to resolve the issues. “We don’t want to have adversarial relationship with our neighbors, maybe we can make some concessions so that we don’t make people upset,” said the North Reading resident.
Palmer proposed closing the patio area to patrons at 6 p.m. After 6 p.m., the fenced-in patio area will be turned into a smoking area to contain smokers.
In addition, Selectman Michael Prisco asked the owner to place signs at the doors asking patrons to respect the neighbors when leaving the restaurant and when outside. Palmer agreed and said he would have the staff and doorman, who works on nights with live entertainment, try to police the noise level of people outside the eatery.
Prisco added that he would like to see the lighting and landscaping buffer issues discussed by the Community Planning Committee to make sure the landlord has placed the necessary buffers.
Palmer said he wants to work with the neighbors.
“I want you guys to believe what I’m telling you,” he told the neighbors on Monday. “I don’t want you to think it’s just BS and we’ll do what we will do anyways… I’ll do the best I can with the problems as they come up.”
The board approved the 20-seat, 706 square-foot fenced-in patio with outdoor seating until 6 p.m. and the area will be used as a smoking area after 6 p.m. Selectmen also approved 3-1 (Yull voting against) to require that Great American hire a police detail on Fridays and Saturdays from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. until Sept. 30 to see if that can reduce the noise issue at closing time. The police chief will determine if the detail is necessary.
Great American requested four video games: Buck Hunter, Golden Tee and two sit-down racing games. The restaurant will put the racing games, geared to children, in the foyer. The other two are for adults and will be closer to the bar.
One resident questioned the violent nature of the games. Craig Jackson of Action Jackson Amusements said Buck Hunter is a hunting game, but that it meets state requirements in terms of regulation. He said the game is the most popular video game in pubs and taverns.
Jackson said the industry is regulated and his company refuses to provide any games with a “strong rating.”
He added that his games are in a few establishments in town and he hasn’t received any complaints.
The board approved the four games.