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Council Gives Norman's 10 Days To Close Shop

The vote was unanimous upon hearing the Harris family was denied a loan to pay the $35,000 in sewer fees and back taxes it owes the town.

Sharon Hazard, daughter of Norman's owner Norman Harris, listens as the Town Council discusses closing the family restaurant.
Sharon Hazard, daughter of Norman's owner Norman Harris, listens as the Town Council discusses closing the family restaurant.

The Town Council voted 5-0 Monday night to give Norman's Tap a final 10-day extension on its victualing and liquor licenses, so that the venerable Main Street establishment can drawn down inventory and prepare to close, after learning owner Norman Harris was not able to secure a loan to pay the more than $35,000 owed to the town.

Norman's, which has existed on Main Street for 50 years, must now cease operating by midnight, Feb. 6. The money owed to the town is mainly sewer fees that have accumulated since 2010.

Lawyer David Dumas, who represented Harris before the Town Council Monday night, explained that Greenwood Credit Union denied Harris a loan because of an earlier foreclosure on a family-owned property on Post Road. 

"I would be remiss if I told you that this was going to work out," Dumas said. "I'm hopeful that they can come up with a solution and I would ask for a reasonable continuance to be able to explore those options."

But, after three previous license extensions, council members had little desire Monday night to grant any continuance after hearing Harris was no closer than he had been at the time the first continuance was granted in November. Beverage-victualing licenses go from Dec. 1 to Nov. 30 and are not to be renewed if there are outstanding town or state taxes or fees.

"It's a very unfortunate set of circumstances that we are now facing," said Councilor Brad Bishop. "I for one, I think we've tried to do as much as we can to extend the time for this applicant … and I think for me, I have no authority to keep going with this."

Said Mark Gee, who has voted against the last two license extensions, "This is not the end of the world for a business. We want every business to survive and prosper, but the reality is, not all businesses do."

Councilor Jeff Cianciolo suggested granting the Harrises some period of time to settle their affairs before they would have to close. The council settled on 10 days.

"I think that indulgence would be very much appreciated," said Dumas.

"This was a difficult decision. We did not see a path to payment, which didn't leave us with other alternatives," said Council President Michael Isaacs after the meeting. 

"It's painful. I just hate to do it," said Councilor Mike Kiernan. "I'm sad to see a staple of East Greenwich go, but they didn't pay their bills."


Alan Clarke January 28, 2014 at 07:30 AM
Seems sort of unfair that the restaurant and bar bear the brunt of the pain when it appears the apartments above and in the house behind are equally in default. Close the only money-making endeavor and we have a sort of debtor's prison situation. Closing the business does nothing in regards to getting current on the money owed. It's still owed. What will they do now, toss everyone who lives in the buildings out into the streets?
Steve Gregson January 28, 2014 at 07:50 AM
We all bear the pain! The biggest issue is it shouldn't have gotten to the point we are at now. The bussiness was mismanaged period. The counicl was out of line going as far as they did. There is little room for discression acording to the charter. The council is obligated to follow the law. We all have empathy but life is not fair and if you choose to run your own business the liabilities can be harsh and sometimes terminal. Rok Bar said 70% of their business went down to the waterfront last summer. What do you think is going to happen this summer? Two things are a sure bet, summer will come and so will the taxman! Hopefully we won't repeat the same mistakes and let the bill get as big.
Bob Plain January 28, 2014 at 08:09 AM
Steve, I don't believe you are right that the Council had little discretion. That's not to say they didn't make the right decision, but I believe they had a great deal of discretionary authority. Alan, great point: five families may lose their homes because of this debt.
EG Lurker January 28, 2014 at 08:45 AM
A previously noted, the sewer fees are not tied to liens on the property, so I believe all this does is deny the liquor license - with no liens by the town, EG cannot take ownership of the apartments and toss tenants out on the street...
Steve Gregson January 28, 2014 at 08:55 AM
Bob, read the Charter and what the council is supposed to do. 3 years this has been going on not 6 months.
Alan Clarke January 28, 2014 at 09:41 AM
Does anyone think it's a bit criminal that someone, anyone, can have $12,000 a year sewer taxes? I mean how in the hell is anyone going to survive with these prices. $125 a year for a post office box? 49¢ for a first class stamp? How's your oil bill so far this winter? Norman's was the only place one could get a $3 breakfast and it has always been a good one. East Greenwich today is a big bedroom. The village is Disneyland North with a sugar coating of “Hill and Harbour” (sic) over the real history of the place. And you still can't buy a can of peas or a bag of nails. Bah!
Jerry Hoff January 28, 2014 at 09:48 AM
Agreed Steve. In my opinion the council provided an overabundance of 'discretionary authority" on the matter, and to some, too much for too long. What's at issue here is laws are crafted to be black and white, with little room for interpretation, so they may be used without prejudice. To say someone should get extra leniency because they operate an "iconic" or "venerable" business in town is ludicrous and wrought with major problems if provided. You simply can't judge on a case by case basis like that. Although the town council spent far too long on this one, they got it right last night. The outcome is isn't to be blamed on them or those of us who feel it's right, the outcome is the result of the actions, or in this case, inaction of defendant.
Class of 98 January 28, 2014 at 11:01 AM
What about ROK? What's there status now?
David January 28, 2014 at 12:38 PM
If your selling breakfast for $3.00 then your business model is outdated and you should go out of business. Now the real question is where are the ex cons from across the street at the hotel going to get their booze in the morning
Alan Clarke January 28, 2014 at 01:14 PM
Probably true, David Whomever -- certainly true in East Greenwich -- but really, how much is a couple eggs, a dollop of potatoes, two pieces of bread and a coffee worth? How much is a toilet flush worth? But "ex-cons" says enough about you to ignore in the future. You add nothing positive to the discourse. Go join DePetro on the back burner.
EG Mike January 28, 2014 at 01:53 PM
The Taxman comes for us all and you must be ready for him. This is a sad story and I can understand the council's difficulty. You see the Harris family has long been a part of EG, the waterfront and surviving on what the Bay provided. Those days are as long gone as the shanties on the cove. I enjoyed listening to the stories the brothers would tell about growing up in a simple time and I pity David for not having enjoyed one of Norma's $3.00 breakfasts. I wish them all the best in the future.
Elizabeth McNamara (Editor) January 28, 2014 at 02:29 PM
I ask that comments remain respectful. Thanks.
Heather Larkin January 28, 2014 at 03:06 PM
The heartbroken look on Ms.Harris' face says it all. Best of luck to the family. Terrible circumstance but unfortunately this is how it had to end.
Alan Clarke January 28, 2014 at 03:53 PM
And I submit, dear Elizabeth, that when Patch assumes the ancient newspaper tradition of requiring real names on letters, this disrespectful and insulting nonsense will stop. It's easy to holler out from behind the bushes but when the whole world knows who you are, you behave better.
EG January 28, 2014 at 05:11 PM
The First Amendment of the Constitution protects the The Right to Speak Anonymously on the Internet. I don't agree with some comments above, but we can't take people's rights away.
Harris3 January 28, 2014 at 05:11 PM
@David..Really guy!!!
Gene Dumas January 28, 2014 at 05:42 PM
Look at the big picture. How many meals and drinks were served up by Mr. Harris and his gang over the years? How much in property taxes, meal taxes, wages, and such have been paid by the Harris' business activities over the 50 years? Me thinks EG has benefitted. Thanks Norman.
Alan Clarke January 28, 2014 at 06:23 PM
"The First Amendment of the Constitution protects the The Right to Speak Anonymously on the Internet." Rewriting the Constitution, EG? No real newspaper ever let anyone anonymously post a letter. This is a manifestation of the internet, of which the founding fathers new naught. Now even newspapers that practice this in print allow anonymous posting on their websites. I expect that to change as the abuse chases legitimate posters away. If you have something to say, put your name to it!
Ericka Forman January 28, 2014 at 06:25 PM
They said from the beginning they would work to pay off this debt. Paying it down monthly if the town would let them. I find this to be a very sad situation all around. Whats going to happen now. Are they going to have to sell the place. Maybe another wedding shop will be put in. Or another chi-chi coffee/martini bar. Come on, there is nothing left up on Main Street for the regular folks that live here. The street is full of overpriced designer shops and fine dining restaurants. We don't need any more of those. Any way, I am sure I am not the only one who feels they got a raw deal.
EG January 28, 2014 at 08:35 PM
@Alan Clarke, I didn't rewrite the Constitution. You might want to do more research on it. BTW, I like most of your comments except I have a different opinion about speaking anonymously.
Alan Clarke January 28, 2014 at 10:31 PM
It was not the Constitution, folks, it was newspapers acting responsibly. Newspapers are certainly willing to let people have their freedom to speak, but they insisted that a verifiable name be attached. Supreme Court. Constitution. We sure are wandering away from the topic at hand. Tell you what: try to get an anonymous letter into the Providence Journal and then tell me where to find it. Especially where the letter approaches slander.
EG January 28, 2014 at 11:18 PM
@Alan Clarke, I didn't get your point. There is a difference between speaking anonymously on internet and sending anonymous letter to Projo. If I received an anonymous letter with detailed tips, I would investigate the issue. If I received an anonymous letter for a personal opinion, I had no obligation to publish it for anonymous person. Speaking on internet anonymously is not relevant to speaking irresponsible.
Jerry Hoff January 29, 2014 at 07:19 AM
Wow! I leave for a couple of hours and come back to real barn burner here! Awesome! Okay Alan let me break it down for you... I own three restaurants in this state. In Providence, PER RESTAURANT, I pay $2200.00 per year for my liquor license fee, $12,000.00 per year for natural gas, $12,000.00 per year for electricity, $4500.00 per year for tangible taxes, $10,000.00 in water and sewer fees, $5,000.00 per year for liability insurance, $5,000.00 per year for workers compensation insurance, $2300.00 per year for state unemployment assessment fee, $2500.00 for property insurance, $48,000.00 in rent, $4,000.00 in triple net..... starting to get the picture here? Now my restaurant in Narragansett has LOWER costs... tangible tax, liquor license fee and rent. Combine that with massively escalating food costs from all our vendors and perhaps you can see that selling a $3 breakfast IS a bad model. Rather than keep up with these expenses and price accordingly Sharon probably was worried about losing customers if she raised her prices because her demographic, "cheap" diners, complained when she did. In order to make YOU happy she went out of business. Life sucks. Businesses die. It's an ugly truth. Based on your responses to everything, you seem a bit out of touch with what's going on out there and I would urge you to focus your efforts on the government at ALL levels or you are most definitely going to see more of your favorite places biting the dust. Take it from a multi business owner... this state is a horrific place to do business, and I for one applaud the council for their taking action. When I have to pay ALL my bills and work as hard as I do to maintain them, I'd at LEAST like to know there's a level playing field out there.
Alan Clarke January 29, 2014 at 08:25 AM
Jerry! Wow! Finally I get to talk to someone with a name! Great. Got what you said. The problem isn't with the council. There are many problems with this issue and with the state in general, but not with the council --- they did what they had to do. Still, as an old townie, we hate to see people we grew up with going down the tubes, the environment we were nurtured in no longer here. It's over! I get that. As I've been told many times: “You can never go home again!” Nonetheless, we feel the loss. My “cheap” breakfasts are not why Norman's went out of business. Sadly, my few random visits did not affect their bottom line. And you're not likely to see me putting you over the top either. I mostly eat at home these days. But invariably, while commenting here, I go on a rampage over these people who can't say anything with their name attached. I like knowing to whom I speak. It is a side issue in this thread and I wish more people would stop hollering from behind the fence. It's cowardly! I have trouble keeping track of how tolerant I have to be these days. It's a new day and I'll just think about the snow instead!
NK Parent January 29, 2014 at 09:51 AM
I'm still curious to find out what happened to Rok Bar. Didn't their extension have the same deadline as Norman's?
NK Parent January 29, 2014 at 09:58 AM
I'd also like to add that I'm totally supportive of the Patch requiring real names for comment postings but until they do I'm saying anonymous. Too many other anonymous nuts on here.
Jerry Hoff January 29, 2014 at 12:05 PM
Might I remind you many a great author and editorialist wrote some very famous works from behind a pen name. Better any discourse than none at all.
Alan Clarke January 29, 2014 at 01:33 PM
Okay, this is it! No mas, por favor! It's not the pen name, it's the quality of the post. Authors with pen names aren't hiding, you can find out who they really are. People shouldn't be tossing out invectives because they can hide behind an alias. You talk about pen names and discourse. I'm talking rude, snotty, people who say anything they want because we don't know who they are. You're Jerry Hoff and I'm Alan Clarke. I can find you and you can find me. We will talk nicer to each other when we have this ability. You won't call me names and I won't call you names. It makes us all more civilized. Is that too much to ask?
Class of 98 January 29, 2014 at 02:06 PM
It's a shame but what's gotten lost in this is that at the same meeting two outstanding individuals were promoted to Police Chief and Fire Chief. Maybe we turn our focus to the positive.
my world February 03, 2014 at 11:15 AM
well this is what they call progress! and its ugly! big box retail is overtaking everything, everything is more more more, more food more cars more taxes more poverty more laws more crime more politics, the resturaunt is closed over a sewer bill. well we are all in the cesspool now like it or not . and allen Clarke you said you can never go home again well for you sir its all in what you beleive

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