NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The Narragansett Town Council did not follow through on an effort Monday to unseal executive session minutes related to Pier Liquors and its purchase of its space in the former Belmont Market building.
The sealed minutes in question were from four meetings in March, April and May, and Council Member Jesse Pugh made the request after the council renewed the license for Pier Liquors to sell alcohol at its Nov. 18 meeting.
“I have absolutely no issue renewing the Pier Liquor license as it was originally worded with the restrictions that were in place,” he said.
Those restrictions prohibited the licensee from transferring the license to a new owner. The council renewed an amended license without the restriction on a 4-1 vote at the Nov. 18 meeting.
“There was no attached written amendment, no indication that this would be happening,” Pugh said. He said Council President Matthew Mannix made the motion for an amendment from the floor.
Another restriction still in place prohibits the licensee from moving to a new location.
“My opinion is this was done on the spot in a deceptive manner,” Pugh said.
At the council’s December meeting, Mannix and Pugh disputed whether the change was discussed in closed executive session on the sale of the Pier Liquors space. Pugh said it wasn’t and Mannix said that was “a total lie,” and that discussion took place.
The town clerk provided the dates of March 4, April 4 and 8 and May 6 2019 as dates when the council met in executive session and there was discussion of Pier Liquors.
“One way to clear this up is to unseal those minutes, have complete transparency,” Pugh said. “The big question is, where did this come from and why was this motion done on the floor?”
Removing the restriction allows the current owner to sell the business, he said.
Solicitor Mark Davis said a request from the owners to lift the transfer restriction was in the initial “letter of intent” to the town during talks to buy the space, as well as in subsequent counter-offers, he said.
“Well you two don’t pay attention during the executive sessions,” Mannix told Pugh and Councilor Patrick Murray. “You two are one-note candidates. This was discussed at length, put forward as one of their requests. The only time we could put it forward as a change was when we were amending the liquor licenses.”
Davis said his understanding of the request to remove the restriction was for Pier Liquors to be able to sell the business to a family member or a trust, rather than a third party.
The council vote failed 2-2, with Pugh and Murray voting for it and Mannix and Councilor Jill Lawler opposed. Councilor Rick Lema abstained.