AUGUSTA — The owner of The Red Barn restaurant gave Mayor David Rollins a check for $200 and signed a consent agreement with the city to settle a noise complaint that had prompted a widespread angry reaction fed by an inaccurate video the owner made criticizing city officials, which was viewed more than 1.4 million times on social media.

Mayor David Rollins said he met with Laura Benedict, owner of the Riverside Drive restaurant, after she called him Wednesday and asked to meet with him face to face.

The two spoke for about an hour, Rollins said, and Benedict told him she had overreacted and said she was sorry for making the video. She also offered to give him a check for $200, the amount proposed in a consent agreement delivered to the restaurant by Matt Nazar, city development director, to settle a noise complaint made against the restaurant in 2016.

Rollins said he accepted the check, to give to the city staff, while noting he had not gone there to collect a check.

Benedict, in the video posted to The Red Barn’s Facebook page, falsely said the city had fined the restaurant for exceeding the city’s noise limits during a 2016 fundraising benefit for a veterans’ group, accused city officials of mistreating veterans by doing so, and urged viewers to contact city officials.

However, the alleged noise violation had occurred at a different event in July 2016, a concert that was not a fundraiser.


Rollins said those accusations hurt city officials, and he said Augusta is a veteran-friendly community. He cited several examples, including, on Memorial Day last year, the city being designated a military-friendly community by the Maine National Guard.

“We are truly a military-friendly community,” Rollins said during a discussion of the incident at Thursday’s Augusta City Council meeting. “Not only did that disparage us and put us in a bad light, but it hurt us, because it couldn’t be further from the truth.”

City officials said they were besieged with calls and emails from people who saw Benedict’s video posted July 7 on Facebook, in which Benedict urged viewers to contact the city to complain about being cited for exceeding noise limits at a fundraiser for Honor Flight Maine. However, the noise violation cited by the city occurred not, as Benedict incorrectly stated, at the Honor Flight Maine event but, instead, at a later concert at the Red Barn that was not a fundraising benefit show.

Benedict, later on July 7, acknowledged to a reporter she had not read the consent agreement before posting the video and was incorrect in stating it was for the Honor Flight Maine, a nonprofit organization that flies veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their memorials. She has since apologized, in another, much-less-well-traveled Facebook post, for identifying the wrong event as being what prompted the city’s action.

The emotional original video, which was taken down from The Red Barn’s Facebook timeline Saturday, and, sometime Monday, also taken off of the page’s videos page, had received more than 1.4 million views.

“The downside of social media, and what is has come to today, is it can make or break people. and that is very unfortunate,” Ward 4 Councilor Anna Blodgett said.


Matt Nazar, the city’s director of development services, who delivered the consent agreement to The Red Barn on July 7, said he tried to contact Benedict to talk about it but was told repeatedly she was not available. He said he appreciates the fundraising The Red Barn does.

“I don’t believe there was malice in what Laura did,” Nazar said of the video. “I don’t think she intended anybody physical harm — though that is the danger, that you could rile someone up who is willing to do that.”

City Manager William Bridgeo said the city received more than 130 calls over the weekend on a voice-mail system in his office, all critical of the city and citing inaccurate information from the video. He said one was threatening enough that it was forwarded to the Police Department.

Rollins said when he met with Benedict, who did not attend Thursday’s council meeting, she expressed frustration that some of her neighbors complain about noise frequently, not just during concerts but also when trucks back into the business.

At-Large Councilor Corey Wilson read a letter from a neighbor of The Red Barn, whom he did not identify, who described having their business and home life interrupted by noise from concerts at The Red Barn, but also expressing an interest in working together with the Red Barn to find a solution.

Rollins said he tried previously to work out such an agreement, but the two neighbors who complained most about noise at the restaurant refused to participate.


Neighbors of The Red Barn complained in 2012 and 2015 when the restaurant sought unsuccessfully to get an exemption from the noise ordinance.

The July 6, 2016, event was a concert at the restaurant that prompted two visits by police about noise complaints. A second event, on June 11, 2017, also was cited, although city officials are not proposing a fine for that event.

Bridgeo said the city staff didn’t take action on the 2016 complaint until noise complaints were also made about the June 11, 2017, event.

The city’s noise ordinance, adopted in 2012, limits noise from commercial activities from exceeding 60 decibels at the nearest property line. However, it includes an exemption to those noise limits for events that have other permits from the city. The Red Barn, known for hosting numerous fundraisers for charitable causes and groups, thus was allowed to exceed noise limits at events in the past because it obtained a mass gathering permit from the city.

While Benedict’s employees dropped off an application for a mass gathering permit for the June 11, 2017, event, no one was available to sign it before the event took place. When neighbors complained about the noise, police found no mass gathering permit on file.

Wilson said the city should look at its mass gathering ordinance to review whether getting one should make events exempt from the noise limits, expressing concern that doing so defeats the purpose of the noise ordinance.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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