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Caterer seeks license renewals

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Posted: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 4:14 pm

SANFORD - The owners of a catering company that hosted a sexually explicit “swingers club” gathering at the Mousam View Place banquet hall have promised that such events will never happen there again. But whether it will cost the company its liquor license this week remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, residents who live within sight of the hall on High Street said they are relieved that the company is putting a stop to the parties.

“It’s disgusting,” said Destini Rideout, who lives in an apartment building across from the hall. “It’s just repulsive.”

On Tuesday evening, after the Observer’s deadline, James Colley, owner of Fresh Start Catering, the business that occupies the hall, will go before the Town Council seeking renewals of the company’s liquor license, amusement license, dance permit and victualer’s license.

The meeting will take place less than two weeks after the company received a letter dated Oct. 21 from the town, charging that the company operated a “swingers club” at the hall. Town Manager Mark Green said this week that the town issued the letter following an undercover police investigation on Oct. 15.

According to the letter, officers saw about 40 people engaged in sexually explicit activity in the building.

“While food and alcoholic beverages were being served, patrons were observed in full nudity, and engaging in a variety of sex acts, including oral sex and full penetration,” the letter reads.

Green said the patrons at the party paid to participate.

“Basically, it was an admission fee,” he said.

The letter accused the company of violating obscenity laws and ordered the parties to stop immediately.

“You are in violation of the Sanford Code because, without limitation, the activities observed at the premises … constitute adult business establishment use under the Sanford Code,” the letter reads.

Tim Gagnon and his wife, Regina, live on Bougie Lane, with Mousam View Place at the edge of their property.

“It’s right in our back yard, literally, and our kids play out there,” Regina Gagnon said.

During the day, the Gagnons babysit their neighbors’ children, and have seen and talked to workers over at the hall. So far, Tim Gagnon said, the hall has been a good neighbor, and gave no real hint of what kind of parties might have been going on inside.

“It surprised the both of us,” Tim Gagnon said.

On Friday afternoon, Rideout pointed to a chainlink fence bordering the hall’s parking lot with two wires hanging from it. She said that was where a sign used to hang advertising a gun show at the hall.

“This lot was always full, but they always had a sign on the fence that would say, ‘Gun Show, Friday and Saturday night,’” she said.

Tim Gagnon said he recently saw patrons enter the building wearing costumes, and dismissed it as an early Halloween party. Rideout said she saw people going in, too, and many of them were carrying coolers.

“I don’t know what was in them,” she said. “I don’t want to know.”

Marie Bearss, who has lived on nearby North Avenue for the past 32 years, remembers when the building used to be the old Knights of Columbus hall. She said she couldn’t believe it when she heard what kind of parties had been hosted there recently.

“It upset me because I’m Catholic,” she said. “I don’t believe in that kind of stuff.”

Colley and his wife, Susan, have been unavailable for comment since the activities inside the hall became public. On Friday afternoon, a man sat in a black Hyundai minivan outside the hall’s main entrance. When asked if he worked for the catering company, he  said, “Not interested, thanks,” and drove away.

In response to the town’s cease-and-desist letter, Colley wrote by mail and email to town officials, promising to abide by the town’s wishes.

“I have informed the owner of the group, which is neither Sue nor myself, that the parties will no longer take place at Mousam View Place,” Colley wrote. “Our intent was never to violate any codes or embarrass this community, the building owner or ourselves.”

The swingers group maintains a website that advertises get-togethers for swingers in southern Maine. The site does not post details about times and places for events, but offers to send them to registered members via email.

In his email to the town, Colley said, “I understand that the website is still up, and the group has a party schedule for November 2011. Please rest assured that this party will not happen at Mousam View Place.”

Town Councilor Joseph Hanslip declined to comment this week on whether the council would deny the Colleys’ renewal applications, saying he would rather wait until the public hearings before forming opinions.

“I think it’s important to go into these with an open mind,” he said.

Welcome to the discussion.