Pires: Claims about disorderly patrons are exaggerated

Owner says bar takes measures to limit confrontations
June 24, 2014

Alex Pires said Northbeach's dollar drink night goes back more than a decade. The drink special was started to give locals and people who work locally a place where they could get a cheap drink and have a good time, said Pires.

It's a relaxed atmosphere where people mind their own business and often stop before 1 a.m., Pires said.

Northbeach is one of the restaurants run by Highway One, which Pires owns. He said it's been three years since he's responded to accusations made at a town commissioner's meeting by public officials at, but the comments made by Dewey Beach Police Chief Sam Mackert, town manager Marc Appelbaum and Mayor Diane Hanson warranted a retort.

“Anybody can stand up and tell the wildest tale at these meetings,” he said. “It's all emotional. Very little of it is factual.”

He questions how Mackert can state that the men who were arrested for fighting at the Lewes Wawa were coming from Northbeach. There are 300 liquor licenses between Northbeach and there, he said.

Dewey police told the commissioners that when Northbeach emptied shortly after 1 a.m., 800 poured into the parking lot. John Snow, Pires' Highway One business partner, denies 800 people left the bar at the same time.

Snow said the bar doesn't want that many people rushing out into the streets at one time, so employees take precautions to make sure that doesn't happen. He said customers begin leaving shortly after midnight and the ones that stay through to the end are told to take their time.

Of letting all those people out at once, he said, “That's a recipe for disaster.”

There weren't 800 people on the streets at 1:05 a.m., Snow said, because there were still 300 to 400 people in the bar at 1:10 a.m.

Snow said he went to bed June 17 and didn't receive any calls about events taking place until well into June 18. He questions why, if the issue was as big as town officials have made it out to be, he didn't receive a call at the time it was happening.

Dewey Beach Sgt. Cliff Dempsey said there were three arrests made that night all relating to customers leaving Northbeach – one public urination, one littering and one disorderly conduct.

Dempsey said he's aware of Pires' comments that those arrests didn't happen at Northbeach, but he was adamant that all three offenders came from the bar.

Snow said he finds it hard to believe Tuesday nights are more difficult to police than weekend nights.

Dempsey said the difference between Tuesday night and a weekend night is the manner of disturbance. He said on the weekends there are large crowds with small disturbances, but on Tuesday it's been a large crowd with large disturbances.

Dempsey said there are few arrests because of limited manpower. As soon as an arrest is made it decreases the force, he said. In a situation like a recent Tuesday night, the goal is to control the situation and to disperse the crowd as quickly as possible.

“There could have been more arrests made if there were more officers,” Dempsey said.

Snow said part of the problem is that the Tuesday special is bookended by two slow nights, which makes anything that happens seem worse.

Pires said the arrival of families in town means there will be much less parking for people coming into town on Tuesday night. Before this week, he said, customers could park a just a few blocks away, but now they'll have to park nine or 10 blocks away.

Pires said he and his partners work closely with the Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner to prevent underage drinking and over drinking. ABCC spends a lot of time in Dewey, said Pires, and they're aware of what's going on.

According to Julie Gray, ABCC license coordinator, since 2000 Northbeach has been fined for three violations – one in 2002 for live entertainment without commissioner approval, one in 2012 for selling to an underage person and another in 2012 for removing alcohol off the premises. The bar was also ticketed for four variance violations – two for not having food available during hours of consumption, one for renewing a liquor license late and one for giving away a free drink.

Pires said the town shouldn't be trying to control how businesses are run and how alcohol is managed.

“The reason we don't have problems is because we are regulated by the state very well,” he said. “The town won't accept the fact that the state has control over some issues.”

This is the 27th year that we've been in business, and we're not going anywhere, Pires said.

“Commissioners come and go, and I believe if it but for them the town would be better off,” he said.

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