Galesville residents fight plans for restaurant, bar

More than dozen sworn in to testify at a meeting of county liquor board

April 09, 2003|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Galesville residents - many of them wearing stickers with the word "no" - protested a local businessman's plans to open a seafood restaurant and bar on Tenthouse Creek during an Anne Arundel County liquor board meeting yesterday in Annapolis.

More than a dozen residents were sworn in to testify before the three-member board, which had yet to resolve the contentious issue late last night.

William R. Woodfield Jr., the license applicant, also was present as his attorney presented site maps in an effort win a liquor license that would permit on- and off-site sales, as well as Sunday sales and music.

Galesville residents argue that the Woodfield restaurant and bar aren't needed because the tiny West River community has two restaurants that serve alcohol. They also worry that the establishment would cater to outsiders who could clog area roads - some of which are one-lane and lack sidewalks - on busy weekends.

"If they have visited the property, there is no way they could endorse this application," said Sharon Puckett of Gambrills, an opponent of the Woodfield liquor license application. "This is an issue of public safety and quality of life."

Puckett and many others in the audience were particularly interested in statements made by two liquor board commissioners - both of whom said they wanted to clear the air regarding potential conflicts of interest.

Liquor board Commissioner Melvin Hyatt - a friend of Woodfield's partner, Nick Bassford of Davidsonville, and whose nephew, an Annapolis attorney, has worked for Woodfield and Bassford - said that he would judge the application "on the merits of the hearing."

"I have no personal or financial interest in this application," he said.

Liquor board Commissioner Sara H. Arthur, an associate in Hyatt's nephew's law firm, said that she knew of no conflict. The firm has declined to represent liquor license applications before the board since Arthur was appointed as a commissioner two years ago. Her term expires at the end of the month.

"If a conflict arises, I will recuse myself," she said.

Liquor board legal counsel Harry C. Blumenthal did recuse himself. He is a law partner with Charles F. Delavan, who is representing Woodfield's liquor license application before the board.

The Woodfield Fish and Oyster Co., which Woodfield sold last year to Bassford, had been used as a seafood processing plant and icehouse since 1917. Woodfield has partnered with Bassford to open a crab house and bar on the premises. The restaurant and bar would employ about 30 people. Several other employees would help to run a retail seafood and ice business, according to testimony.

Delavan, Woodfield's attorney, said that Woodfield would still work with local watermen, purchasing fresh crabs and oysters from them.

Delavan said that since Woodfield lives near the site, he is opposed to raucous parties. Restaurant and bar hours would be from noon to 10 p.m. weekdays, and from noon to 11 p.m. weekends. Delavan said that there would be no live music, and that liquor sales would be monitored to ensure that alcohol would not pass from diners on the deck to outsiders.

"We recognize that this is a unique facility and site," Delavan said, referring to the property's location within a residential community as well as its connection to Galesville's history and economy.

Bassford, who owns many businesses throughout Anne Arundel, stunned Galesville residents when he purchased three properties in town last summer. Besides the old Woodfield seafood and ice plant, Bassford owns the two restaurants in town that have liquor licenses.

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