The Raging Bull Saloon on Saturday in downtown Augusta. A sign in window says it will be closed until Jan. 3 because of a mandate from Gov. Janet Mills. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — The city’s licensing board is recommending the liquor license for the Raging Bull Saloon not be renewed for another year based in part on the number of complaints made in the year it has been open.

Since December 2019, police have been called to 228 Water St. nearly two dozen times on complaints about disturbances, disorderly conduct and city ordinance violations. While some complaints were deemed unfounded by officers, others resulted in three arrests and a summons being issued.

Raging Bull Saloon co-owner Bradley Wallace said he and partner Ryan Larochelle debated a number of the complaints with the licensing board, which includes Augusta Police Chief Jared Mills and Rob Overton, city code enforcement officer.

“Most of them were noise complaints,” Wallace said, but the noise level outside the bar has never been tested.

Wallace said he’s working with his landlord to add insulation in the bar to dampen the impact of the noise.

The final license decision rests with the Augusta City Council, which is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on the license renewal at its Dec. 17 meeting.

On Friday, Wallace met with Augusta city officials to discuss strategies for operating in the future, including considering the Augusta police as a resource and perhaps closing earlier.

The Raging Bull Saloon, on Saturday in downtown Augusta. A sign in window says it will be closed until Jan. 3rd because of a mandate from Gov. Janet Mills. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“We suggested he request a conditional license for six months,” Keith Luke, deputy development director for the city of Augusta, said.

If no issues arise during that period, he said, the owners could return to city officials and seek a full license, and by then,  public health restrictions may be lifted, allowing more normal operations.

Wallace said his business, which celebrated its first anniversary Saturday, has had a tough year.

The Raging Bull, which features live country music, had only been open about four and half months when the global coronavirus pandemic was declared, prompting it to be closed down along with other non-essential businesses in Maine. Public health restrictions kept restaurants and bars closed throughout the spring, and limited the number of people who could be served inside to keep the contagious virus from spreading.

At the end of July, the Raging Bull was one of two downtown Augusta businesses to get outside decking to expand their footprint to be able to serve more customers. In mid-October, singing in public was banned, putting an end to karaoke at the bar.

Because of closures and decisions by other bars and restaurants, Wallace said the Raging Bull has been drawing people who are not the usual clientele, in part because he has been open later than other establishments.

On Friday, Gov. Janet Mills extended the 9 p.m., curfew on restaurants and bars to Jan. 3 after the COVID-19 cases in Maine have surged unabated since the end of October. The curfew, put in place the week before Thanksgiving, had been set to end Sunday.

The curfew means Wallace’s business won’t be able to operate during what are its most profitable hours.

“I’ll  have to let my staff know,” he said.

Wallace said someone has also anonymously complained to the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention that the business was not complying with public health recommendations, but that proved unfounded.

The complaint detailed activity on a Monday, but the bar is closed every Monday. It was investigated, and no action was taken.

“It’s political,” Wallace said. “You can be targeted in ways that are retributional to your business.”

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