, Newburyport, MA

July 25, 2013

Complaints lodged against Castaways

Concerns raised about use of fire pit, closing hours


---- — SEABROOK — Town Manager Bill Manzi is investigating allegations that a beach restaurant is in violation of its operating conditions, as well as town regulations, and will report his findings to the Board of Selectmen during an upcoming meeting.

Theresa Kyle, a Portsmouth Avenue resident, told selectmen recently that her “right to the quiet enjoyment of her property” is being violated repeatedly by the actions of the owners of the Castaways Seafood and Grille, located at 209 Ocean Blvd., which is close to Kyle’s property.

Kyle told selectmen she’s bothered by the noise from the restaurant, especially the sound of loud music. She also claimed that the restaurant, although approved for operating hours up to 11 p.m., is often open until 1 a.m.

It isn’t the first time town officials, as well as Beach Village District officials, have heard complaints about Castaways, a 285-seat seasonal restaurant on the shores of Seabrook Harbor. Complaints about noise, parking, operating hours and activities have risen at times since the establishment opened in 2009, according to town and Seabrook Beach Village District officials.

The only business license available at Seabrook Town Hall, dated May 16, 2011, lists John Dussi of Boxford and Theodore Mountzuris of Byfield as owners.

In an interview yesterday, Dussi said claims that the restaurant is open until 1 a.m. are erroneous. The restaurant is open to patrons from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., he said, although employees may linger longer while they clean up and close for the night.

“Our kitchen closes at 10 (p.m.) and we take orders till then,” Dussi said. “Sometimes, in the summer, people come in late — say around 9:30 or 10, and order a meal. It’s prepared and served and they need time to eat it. But we aren’t open till 1 (a.m.).”

As far as loud, live music bothering neighbors, Dussi said, he’s already agreed to keep the performance of music inside the restaurant and not continue to allow it on the outside deck. Although Dussi confirmed the restaurant has offered live music, it was never “amplified,” but merely acoustic.

The restaurant’s website advertises live music performances Thursdays through Sundays from 5 to 8 p.m.

After speaking to town officials, Dussi said he doesn’t believe he needs a permit for the live entertainment, if it isn’t amplified.

“It’s my understanding that as long as it’s kept inside and not amplified, we don’t need any permits to have live music,” Dussi said. “Sometimes we have a person in playing the piano or the guitar, with no amplification. It’s my understanding, if it’s done within the confines of our four walls, it’s well within our rights to do so without a permit.”

Seabrook has required permits for businesses that want to host live music at their venues. According to zoning regulations in both the town of Seabrook and the Seabrook Beach Village District, noise or music from a business, even with a permit, cannot extend beyond the business’ boundaries. And according to Kyle, the sound of music drifts across the road.

The Planning Board approved Castaway’s site plan in 2009, allowing a 285-seat establishment with a deck, with operating hours until 11 p.m. Dussi filed a request with the Planning Board in the past to extend the restaurant’s hours to midnight, but ultimately withdrew it.

Dussi appeared before the Planning Board at their April meeting with a question relating to outdoor seating on the deck. Planning Board members took the opportunity to air their grievances on how the restaurant is being operated, citing possible operating hour violations, as well as the existence and use of fire pits on the restaurant grounds, which were not on the site plan approved by the Planning Board, according to the draft minutes of the April 2 meeting.

According to those minutes, board members told Dussi that the number of seats allowed on the deck would stay the same. They added that if Dussi wanted to use fire pits, he needs to return to the Planning Board with plans requesting their approval, even if he has the approval from the fire department.

But Dussi disagrees. He said yesterday that after speaking with his attorney, as well as with Henry Boyd, of Millennium Engineering, since he owns the exterior grounds upon which the fire pits are located, he can place them there without Planning Board approval.

Dussi said patrons can’t order alcoholic beverages while seated at the fire pits. However, he said, patrons can go inside, order liquor and then go outside to enjoy the fire pits.

According to Selectman Aboul Khan, selectmen’s representative to the Planning Board, at one point at the April 2 meeting the discussion became so heated that Dussi, an attorney, threatened legal action, before the discussion calmed.

Dussi is already involved in legal issues related to problems at his former establishment in Portsmouth, N.H., The Page Sports Bar and Restaurant. The Page’s parent company, New Adventure Entertainment, LLC, of which Dussi is listed as agent, was indicted in June by a Rockingham County grand jury on two felony charges related to the improper service of alcohol, following the death of a patron after an altercation on the bar’s dance floor on April 5.

With two other unrelated complaints before it concerning The Page, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission revoked the bar’s liquor license on June 26. Just prior to that, Portsmouth city officials announced they had reached an agreement with The Page owners, who agreed to close the establishment permanently.