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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Defending the Bean.

Today's Sound Bites column has a blurb about the legal troubles currently facing Burlington's Radio Bean. It features quotes from a  letter/petition being circulated by Neil Cleary. Here is Neil's plea in its entirety. If you agree with his statements, send your "signature" to [email protected]

UPDATE: I was informed by Assistant City Attorney Gene Bergman of a couple of inconsistencies in the Radio Bean blurb.

#1: Anderson didn't find out about the possibility of sanctions at the June 1 Licensing Comittee hearing. The information had been included in a notice of hearing that was served on May 8. It was of course, reiterated at said hearing.

#2. The $200 fine Anderson paid was not for a "violation of fire code." It was a noise ticket. The capacity issue is separate.

All this legal stuff makes me dizzy! Read on for Neil's missive.

Dear Friends,

The Radio Bean has come under fire from the city recently over a fire code violation, and is in danger of being penalized out of existence. Please read the letter below and RSVP to let me know if I can attach your name to it. Let me know too if you're comfortable with me listing credentials with your name (as in: "Bill Clinton -- Former President of the United States"), and let me know how you want them listed. Don't be shy. Hopefully we can help the City Council see how important the Radio Bean is to all of us.

Neil Cleary



After being found in violation of their fire code capacity one night (for which they have already paid a $200 fine and since adhered to much stricter capacity policies), the Burlington City Council is now considering imposing restrictions on the Radio Bean coffeehouse, such as suspending their liquor or entertainment licenses, which would effectively put them out of business. This would be not only a great loss to the community, but extremely unfair and short-sighted decision, considering the following:

* This is the first violation of its kind for the Radio Bean in its 6 years.

* The Bean has already been penalized once by the fine, and have since assiduously followed a very strict capacity policy. Penalizing the Bean further would be excessive, and nothing short of catastrophic for the business.

* The Radio Bean exemplifies a model of responsible alcohol consumption, emphasizing European-style coffeehouse atmosphere, arts, and community over copious consumption & public drunkenness -- unlike countless other bars in Burlington. If it were to go under, another less-responsible institution might very well take its place.

* Without exaggeration, literally hundreds of Burlingtonians will vouch for the character of owner Lee Anderson, an extremely responsible and compassionate small-business owner and pillar of Burlington arts. For years, Lee has single-handedly encouraged and nurtured a scene based around the Radio Bean, organizing neighborhood festivals, parades, theatrical performances, and even producing a CD of Radio Bean musicians. He's done this with a passion and maturity that we find inspiring.

* Additionally, Lee is an valued resident on the North Winooski/Pearl Street block, a block that has historically seen its share of struggles with failing businesses & troublesome tenants. Aside from renting space as a business for 6 years, Lee is a resident himself, and has helped building owner Clark Hinsdale place numerous responsible tenants in the apartments upstairs.

* Aside from a successful business, the Radio Bean is an indispensable community center for the city of Burlington. It is a gathering place not only for musicians, painters, poets, photographers, and artists of all description, but it is a regular meeting place for groups of community organizers, students, mothers with children, blogger/podcasters and more.

* Plans are already underway to expand the Radio Bean, taking over the adjacent space currently occupied by Lovely Nails. This will greatly expand the Bean's ability to present local arts, as well as ease their current stifling space constraints. Imposing further punitive restrictions at this particularly fragile moment in the business would make these improvements impossible.

In short:
The Radio Bean is one of Burlington's most important community/arts institutions, that deserves the city's support. Please don't impose restrictions that would put it out of business.
Your Name Here


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Who? Me, you, Lee or Assistant City Attorney Gene Bergman?


That Lindsay Lohan! Have you heard the latest??

Just kidding. Me.


I heard she was snorting crushed-up heart meds that belonged to Robert Altman on the set of "Prairie Home Companion."

And on-set stripteases with Meryl Streep.


Mmmm. Streep-tease.


Very sad to hear. One of my favoite spots. Who are the representative/legislators to put pressure on??


Update from me:

Okay, I was wrong. My petition was maybe a bit hastily put together, and I accept the corrections. Still, I think even considering the new information, the essential issues are the same.

#1: True, Lee was notified of possible sanctions in early May. What he wasn't aware of however, was that the hearing he showed up for would be full-on trial-style, with witnesses, evidence, and a prosecuting attorney for the city. He was blindsided, and thus he arrived at the hearing totally unprepared and empty-handed.

#2: The ticket was for a noise violation. However, it remains that:

* The noise violation was still the first of its kind in six years. The complaining neighbor has since moved away, and there have been no complaints of its kind before or since.

* Lee has been very strict about both capacity AND curfew since. If rules are imposed to chasten the offenders and change their ways, then mission accomplished: a $200 loss to a small business like the Bean is plenty chastening, and the offending ways have since been changed.

For those curious, the issue now at hand is that Lee's licenses (entertainment and liquor) are up for renewal. How responsibly Lee has maintained them will be the measure of whether they're renewed, and to what degree. Possible outcomes include a change in hours he's allowed to serve liquor or provide entertaintment, suspension of either of these for a period of time, or perhaps no change at all. Of course, this is last one is what we're all hoping for.

A list of city councilors is available at:

The licensing committee, who will decide to renew or change the Radio Bean's licenses, are:
Barbara Perry ([email protected])
Paul Decelles ([email protected])
Cheryl McDonough ([email protected])

If you want to be in touch with them, keep it positive. Rather than argue facts or claim injustices it's best to emphasize that 1.) you're a burlington resident -- check if you're in their ward! and 2.) how much the Bean means to you and the community at large.

Hopefully the positive input of many neighbors can outnumber the complaints of one (who doesn't even live there anymore).



Okay, hold your fire there maybe:

I emailed my petition & names of 50 signees to the Licensing Committee today and very quickly received a kind response from committee chair Barbara Perry which among other things said: "Please be advised that the non-renewal of Radio Bean's entertainment and liquor licenses are not an issue... I appreciate the your concerns and do not feel one should worry about the viability of Radio Bean." Which sounds... good, right? Makes me feel better.

Ok, maybe I was a bit of the drama queen about this, but guess I'd rather be safe than sorry when it comes to the Radio Bean. I'll post here about whatever happens. Meantime, thanks for your responses.

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