HARWICH — The selectmen made it clear last week they will not renew a seasonal liquor license for the Summer House Café unless the owners take major steps to show they can meet the public need. Though it has held a license for the past two years, the business has never opened its doors.
“The fundamental problem is you are not capable of operating as a food and liquor operation until you have a standard septic system,” Selectman Donald Howell said in a recent public hearing.
Located at the former Irish Pub building adjacent to the Herring River along Route 28 in West Harwich, the establishment has been under renovation but progress has been slow, and some work has not been brought into compliance with regulations. The owners, representatives of Chase Escape Cape Cod, LLC, have been required to meet with selectmen as the liquor licensing authority every three months to report status updates.
They were scheduled to appear before selectmen on Jan. 17, but at the start of the hearing, Town Administrator Joseph Powers said he had received an email from Attorney Neil Kreuzer, representing owner Nicholas Fiorillo, explaining neither he nor the owner could attend the meeting. The email indicated that Kreuzer was on paternity leave until the third week in February, and Fiorillo was sick with a respiratory illness. The attorney asked for the hearing to be continued to Feb. 21 to allow time for the health board to review septic system design plans, he said. Powers said he responded with an email stating the project proponents have known of the hearing for several weeks and could have made plans to attend or participate remotely. The town administrator called the attorney’s email “untimely,” and he declared that the hearing would proceed.
Town Counsel Jeffrey Blake said this was the second time the applicant has requested a continuance hours before a hearing. Blake said it was proper for the board to proceed. Blake said the board has given the applicant many opportunities to explain why the business is not open.
“You’ve done everything you have to do. You do not have to continue this hearing,” Blake said.
Howell asked Health Department Director Katie O’Neill what the status is of the property’s septic system.
“They haven’t even scheduled test holes yet, which would be the first step,” O’Neill replied.
“We’ve bent over backwards for them,” Selectman Larry Ballantine added.
Selectmen Chairman Michael MacAskill said the seasonal license expired on Jan. 15, and renewal packets go out in February and are acted upon in March.
“Tonight, I think you should find they failed to exercise their license,” Blake said. “That way when they come for a renewal you can say you failed to exercise your license, and we’re not renewing until you can adequately assure you can exercise that license.”
The licensing authority has the right to reject a license for failure to meet the public need, town counsel said.
On a motion by Howell, the board unanimously found that the applicant had failed to meet the public need in 2022, despite having had numerous chances to correct the problem.