I am writing to bring light upon the recent actions of the Wellington Village Council. An application was submitted to Wellington to extend the hours of operation of the Grille. A second part of the application was to allow us to operate under the proper liquor license, known as a 4COP license.
The underlying purpose of the application was allow the Grille to operate under the same hours and conditions enjoyed by the Players Club, Jo-Jo’s, Graffito, the Gallery and other businesses operating in Wellington after 11 p.m. while located in the Wellington PUD. We simply sought the same treatment as everyone else.
The application came before the council on Aug. 28, and they refused to grant us the same hours enjoyed by our direct competition, which includes the Players Club. During the discussion and vote of this matter, Councilman John Greene, who had previously recused himself from other Neil Hirsch-related business before the council, failed to recuse himself despite his admitted ties to Mr. Hirsch, owner of the Players Club. The council voted for partial hours and granted the Grille permission to operate under the 4COP license. We were also given the right to reapply before the council at anytime.
The next week, the village attorney was told that Mr. Greene did not mean to vote in favor of an expanded 4COP license and therefore wanted to reopen discussion, after the vote, to deny the 4COP approval. At the Sept. 11 village council hearing, despite a demand by our lawyer, Avery Chapman, Mr. Greene refused to recuse himself. One cannot begin to unravel the ethics violations involved in that action by Mr. Greene.
Then, the council voted 3-2 to change the previous village resolution and now deny the Grille its 4COP license. We were also stripped of our right to reapply to the council earlier than one year in the future. Reopening the discussions was a highly irregular action, one almost never heard of.
During our Sept. 11 hearing, the council stated that it would now be reviewing the operating hours of all businesses and restaurants in Wellington for violation of the 11 p.m. closing time. The council stated that if a business or restaurant did not have either an exception to the 11 p.m. closing time because of its location and/or a 4COP license, or did not have a conditional use previously approved by the council, then that business or restaurant must close at 11 p.m., regardless of the prior and established business practices and regardless of the prior waiver of enforcement by Wellington.
What this means to all businesses and restaurants in Wellington is that they now must close by 11 p.m. every day of the week unless exempt or previously granted permission to do otherwise. This action by the council is extremely hostile to the business community in Wellington and serves only to unreasonably restrict the ability of those same businesses to derive some profit from operations during the short winter season, when residents, full-time and part-time, flock to the businesses for evening dining and entertainment. By enforcing the 11 p.m. closing time, Wellington will force residents to drive to other towns, such as Delray, Boca and West Palm, rather than safely spending their time and money in Wellington. Likewise, people from out of Wellington will not travel to Wellington to spend money in Wellington businesses.
The council clearly is out of touch with the businesses and residents. The Grille presented over 165 petition letters and at least six people spoke in support of our application. Nevertheless, the council saw fit to not only refuse the Grille permission to operate on a level playing field with its direct competition, but then the council declared that all non-exempt and non-authorized businesses and restaurants must close by 11 p.m.
So now our council has shown its true colors. The majority members [Mayor Bob] Margolis, [Councilman Matt] Willhite and Greene are hostile to businesses here. Only [Vice Mayor Howard] Coates and [Councilwoman Anne] Gerwig were brave enough to stand up to them. The council will be subject to yet another lawsuit by a business owner, caused by the unfair, arbitrary and needless actions of our present council. I therefore urge all business owners in Wellington to immediately address their concerns to the council in written form.
Juan Gando, Owner
The Grille Fashion Cuisine