Portsmouth restaurant OK’d to expand alcohol service

Custom House Coffee will now be allowed to serve alcohol on its outdoor terrace. Custom House Coffee will now be allowed to serve alcohol on its outdoor terrace.

Custom House Coffee will now be allowed to serve alcohol on its outdoor terrace.

Custom House Coffee will now be allowed to serve alcohol on its outdoor terrace.

PORTSMOUTH — Although several abutters objected to Custom House Coffee’s request for a liquor license last year, the business heard nary a peep when it asked at a public hearing Monday night to increase the hours it could serve alcohol.

Sitting as a Board of License Commissioners, the Town Council voted unanimously to allow Custom House to serve alcohol from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Previously, the business was allowed to serve alcohol from noon to 9 p.m.

In addition, the council vote allows Custom House, at 600 Clock Tower Square off West Main Road, to serve alcohol on its outdoor terrace on the south side of the building.

Attorney Kenneth Tremblay, representing Oceanside Enterprises LLC, doing business as Custom House Coffee, said granting the request will allow the restaurant to meet the demands of its customers and be on a more equal footing with other establishments that have Class B liquor licenses.

By allowing the business to start serving alcohol at 10 a.m., customers can now have a “mimosa or Bloody Mary” with their breakfast, he said.

As for the request to serve alcohol outside, he said, other restaurants, such as 15 Point Road and Scampi, already have al fresco dining.

“It seems rather popular in Portsmouth to dine outside,” said Mr. Tremblay.

The request to allow alcohol to be served earlier didn’t come without concerns from some council members, however.

“I think you’re a great community-minded organization,” said Council Vice President John Blaess. “But I’m having a little bit of a problem with a 10 a.m. start with alcohol, Monday through Saturday. It seems personally to be a little early.”

George Doumaney, manager and co-owner of Custom House, responded that other Portsmouth restaurants are allowed to serve liquor even earlier. Mr. Doumaney said he had a Bloody Mary at Graziano’s 501 Cafe in Island Park at 9:30 one recent morning.

“A Bloody Mary at lunch really doesn’t make any sense,” he said, adding that the business is “not trying to be a barroom.”

The only person other than the petitioners who testified at the public hearing was Bill Clark, the town’s director of business development, who spoke in favor of the application because he believes it will make Custom House more competitive.

No abutters

Council member Elizabeth Pedro expressed surprise that there were no abutters at Monday’s hearing, since several turned out to express concerns during a public hearing on Custom House’s request for a liquor license in September 2012. Ms. Pedro said she had more of a problem with the business staying open until 10 p.m., which she thought might be a problem with neighbors.

Council member David Gleason recused himself from voting but said he was concerned that the business may come back to the council to expand its hours again.

Mr. Doumaney, however, assured the council that his staff wants to be out by 10 p.m., and has no interest in serving liquor before 10 a.m.

Answering a question by Council President James Seveney, Mr. Doumaney also said live entertainment will be confined indoors “99 percent of the time,” noting that one open mic event was held outdoors last year.

The council voted 4-0 in favor of Custom House Coffee’s request. Mr. Gleason and Keith Hamilton recused themselves from the vote, while Michael Buddemeyer was absent from the meeting.

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