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."