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(Doug’s was located on Main Street in Bennington./Zeke Wright)
Monday April 1, 2013

BENNINGTON -- An embattled Main Street bar was shut down by the state on Friday after liquor inspectors witnessed violations during a recent visit.

Doug's on Main Street, owned by Doug Goble and his mother, Mary, was abruptly closed Friday following a hearing this week before the Vermont Liquor Control Board. The paperwork served Friday night took effect immediately.

A message posted on the bar's Facebook page Friday evening announced the state's action.

"Well gang, the town wins. State just pulled our license. Enjoy bars in Bennington while you can because we're just the beginning. It's been fun. Cheers!," the posting reads.

Another comment posted from the bar's account on its own Facebook page also blamed the town for the revocation of its license. "Town did this Don't be fooled. The state was simply the tool that they used," the comment reads.

Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette attended the two-hour hearing on Wednesday. The Vermont Liquor Control Board decided unanimously to revoke the liquor license for DOMS Inc., the company under which the bar is run, he said.

The paperwork outlining the board's decision was delivered to Goble at the bar by Doucette, Bennington Police Lt. Lloyd Dean and Vermont Department of Liquor Control Sgt. Thomas Curran, according to Doucette.

"He was very cooperative. We did explain to him that he would be arrested if he did give away any alcohol or served any alcohol," Doucette said, who said doing so could be punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

The bar can sell the liquor to another establishment with a liquor license, but the transactions must be documented.

Bill Goggins, director of education, licensing and enforcement with the Vermont Department of Liquor Control, said earlier this month that the March 27 hearing was the result of at least two visits to the bar in recent months by a state liquor inspector. The hearing involved allegations of over-serving patrons, serving multiple drinks to patrons and providing free drinks, Goggins said.

The bar had been sanctioned by the state before. Goble reached a settlement with the state last September and accepted a 10-day suspension after state liquor inspectors charged that the bar served alcohol to patrons "displaying obvious signs of intoxication." Other charges included furnishing alcohol to patrons for free, and a "disturbance/brawl" on the premises.

Additionally, the town had previously expressed concern about the bar in the past. The Bennington Police Department used "directive patrols" during late night hours at the bar to have an increased police presence. Doucette appeared before the Select Board in the past to inform Select Board members about the number of calls his department has responded to there. Police have responded more than 100 times in the past two years, he said.

According to Doucette, Goble on Wednesday asked the state board to allow him to retain his license through April until his local town license expired. Goble said he did not plan on asking the Bennington Select Board to renew his license with the town and planned to close at the end of April, Doucette said.

"He came out and asked if he could keep his liquor license from now until April 30 because he has liquor on the premises and he has employees that he wanted to take care of," Doucette said.

The town did not participate in the hearing, according to Doucette.

However, Doucette said Saturday that he was opposed to allowing Goble to retain his license through April.

"I really felt that for Doug to be able to retain his liquor license knowing full well that he was going out of business in five weeks was a real public safety concern for me," Doucette said. "It would have been a free-for-all there," he said.

The bar received plenty of support from patrons on its Facebook page.

"I can't believe Dougs On Main St is being shut down by the state. Such a shame," wrote Melissa Curtis.

Carlton Yost also offered his encouragement.

"It's a shame that they targeted the one bar in town that actually does good for the community of its own volition. You're a bright, good dude though and you'll bounce back for sure," he wrote.

Bryana Waters noted the fundraisers and other community events Goble hosted at the bar.

"Doug, you're a great person inside and out. I personally just want to thank you for all of your support and encouragement to me as a friend along with all the POSITIVE things you did do for our community!

Fundraising, participating, advertising, etc... On to the next chapter my friend! xoxo," she wrote.

Contact Neal P. Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com, or follow on Twitter: @nealgoswami