September 20, 2020

Old Town council seeks fines against restaurant

OLD TOWN — In a unanimous vote Monday night, the City Council affirmed its request for a court order that would impose $150 a day in fines on the owners of a popular Stillwater Avenue restaurant.

The restaurant in question, the Market Cafe, continues to serve its Greek and American specialties despite the council’s decision last month to revoke the restaurant’s victualer’s license.

At issue is whether Antonios and Claudia Dimoulas can legally operate a restaurant in their neighborhood store at 827 Stillwater Ave. The property is located in a low-density residential zone, in which restaurants are prohibited.

Though the city’s zoning board of appeals granted the couple permission to use up to 10 percent of their floor space for the on-site consumption of coffee and baked goods, it is the city’s belief that the couple exceeded that limit.

City officials contend that the Market Cafe has been in violation of city zoning ordinances since it began serving hot meals early last year. The councilors revoked the cafe’s victualer’s license Dec. 15.

Within days of the revocation, the Dimoulases filed a lawsuit in Penobscot County Superior Court asking the court to reverse the council’s decision, to reinstate their victualer’s license and to award them their legal costs.

The couple filed a separate motion for a stay, claiming that if the Market Cafe is forced to stop selling meals, its owners will suffer irreparable financial harm.

The Dimoulases also have started gathering the 500 signatures needed for a citywide referendum aimed at rezoning their property.

In its countersuit, filed last week, the city asks the court to order fines of $100 a day for violations to the city’s zoning ordinances, and $50 a day for operating a restaurant without a victualer’s license, a violation of state law.

In other business, the city’s efforts to create a safe work environment for its employees appear to be paying off. On Monday, Old Town became one of four Maine communities to win a 1997 Leader Program Workplace Safety Award.

The award was presented to the council by Ken White of the Maine Municipal Association, which sponsors of the program. He said that the benefits for Old Town and other communities which participate in the incentive program include enhanced safety for workers and savings on Workers’ Compensation costs.

Matters the council chose not to pursue were expanded City Hall hours and an action plan to address ergonomic deficiencies at the finance department’s counter.

Councilors noted that the low level of interest the public expressed in a two-month survey period did not warrant extending operating hours at City Hall, which would involve either scheduling changes or overtime pay for staff.

The ergonomics action plan, which would require expenditures of up to $9,000, was tabled pending more information. The issue came before the council with a workstation evaluation by the MMA and a report from Down East Orthopedic Associates in Bangor linking a staff member’s injuries with her work area’s poor design.

Also at the meeting, the councilors recognized city employees Beverly Fish, Al Martin and Vera Ambrose for more than 25 years of community service, and Gary Stetson for his 15 years at the helm of the employee safety committee.

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