Winners was a big loser Monday night at City Hall.
The recently-renovated bar and grill on Ferry Street was found by the License Commission to have violated its last-chance agreement with the Board – and the result was a 2-1 vote to strip the venue of its liquor license as of May 13.
In a contentious meeting where the Board had clearly been pushed beyond its limits of toleration, owner Tony Portillo and his attorney, John Mackey, asked for another chance to operate the new sports bar – which Portillo said is underwater in debt.
“Tony has complete and utter disregard for this Board and what it asks him to do,” said Chair Phil Antonelli. “In September, with the last-chance agreement, everything Tony wanted, Tony got. He has not been a good corporate citizen in Everett. We have police reports, over serving patrons and staying open late. No matter what, it’s never his fault.”
Antonelli added that in his 15 years on the Board, he has never issued a last-chance agreement – let alone one that has been violated so egregiously. He also pointed out that Portillo has been before the Board at every single monthly meeting for the past year.
Member Phil Arloro said he had seen and heard one too many lies from Portillo – who he had hoped could run a good business when Portillo took over the old Shooters location.
“I want to know why he has lied to us,” he said. “Every single time he has come in here, he has always told us he gives us his word. He says he’s going to do things right. But nothing ever changes. Then we got to the point where we had to put something on paper with the last-chance agreement. Now we’re here tonight with the same problems with the last-chance agreement. What he tells us and what he does are two different things. This Board has more than bent over backward to accommodate this business.”
The crux of the latest issue was the fact that Portillo was barred from using the basement of the establishment in the agreement. That was because he had been found on numerous occasions to have blocked egresses and created an unsafe condition there.
The agreement under no uncertain terms read that the basement was off-limits even though it had been renovated at a huge cost.
Then, on April 20, Member Brian McCarthy discovered that there was an event in the basement being promoted, and actually being filmed live on Facebook.
When members of the Board and Everett Police went to the establishment, they found patrons watching soccer in the basement, and one person was extremely intoxicated. Records from the cash registers indicated that the basement had been used regularly, and it wasn’t a special situation.
Portillo, accompanied by his wife, Sandra, and his brother in law, Juan, pleaded with the Board – admitting he had screwed up by allowing people in the basement.
“I screwed up on this one,” he said. “As a man, I take responsibility.”
He said he made the move to use the basement because the business is struggling due to renovations that cost $750,000 – in addition to utility bills in the tens of thousands of dollars.
“I know I screwed up; this last time is 100 percent on me,” he said. “Whatever penalties you decide, I accept. I just want a fair chance to show I’m an asset again. I don’t want to be a headache. Everything I have I invested in Winners. I think the sports is a niche market and can be successful.”
However, it was too late.
McCarthy and Arloro voted to revoke the liquor license, with Antonelli voting against revocation.
They agreed to allow him to stay open for Cinco de Mayor and Mother’s Day, but the bar must close up on May 13, and surrender the liquor license on May 15. It can still operate as a restaurant but cannot serve alcohol.
Mackey and Portillo said they would work diligently in the next few weeks to find a buyer to bring before the Board to take over the establishment. That buyer would need to apply for a new liquor license, and there are about eight now available.
•In other news, La Perle owner Valery Joseph was before the Board concerning her liquor license for the now-shuttered La Perle Restaurant on Bow Street. The restaurant had been a hit for many years in the Haitian and Caribbean community but hit a wall with the construction of Encore Boston Harbor next door. The casino eventually bought the building and Joseph had to close up in March.
Commissioners told her that due to state rules, she had until late October to find a new location in Everett to use her liquor license.
Joseph said she is trying very hard to find a location, but the real estate market is so hot that it has become impossible to find an affordable, vacant location.