Neighbors vs. Wally's Pub: Selectmen get involved

Return to Table of Contents

Owner responds to complaints about noise, indecent acts and illegal activity

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, June 8, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Wally's Pub located at 144 Ashworth Avenue in Hampton Beach.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]

HAMPTON -- Steve Light can see the Wally's Pub parking lot from the front deck of his Hampton Beach home, and he hasn't been enjoying the view.

"Tailgating, drinking, smoking dope, people engaging in sex ... we have seen it all," Light said.

A dozen neighbors have for a few years been complaining about noise and alleged illegal activity at Wally's Pub, especially in the parking lot of the 144 Ashworth Ave. business.

Complaints have been sent to police and to the Hampton Board of Selectmen, which on Monday took what some have said was the unusual step of getting involved in the dispute.

Selectmen voted 4-1 to schedule a June 25 public hearing to discuss the issue and review the pub's entertainment license.

Wally's Pub owner Albert Fleury told the Hampton Union on Thursday he's not concerned about the upcoming hearing because he knows the complaints are unfounded.

Since he purchased the business in 2004, Fleury said, the biker bar/music venue has never been cited for a noise violation by the town and has had no liquor law violations.

"I know exactly what goes on in that place, and I know what is true and what isn't true and those (accusations) are not true," Fleury said. "But in the selectmen's defense, when there are complaints they have to address it."

Fleury said the complaints come from a handful of residents who are upset with his proposed plans to go before the Zoning Board to expand the pub's parking lot.

"The majority of people love Wally's," Fleury said. "It's a safe, fun vacation spot and a rock 'n' roll club, and I'm going to keep it like that."

The pub has been in existence for more than 30 years, but it's only been in the last few years that neighbors have had problems with the establishment. The pub has grown in popularity, attracting national bands such as Candlebox and Sponge.

Police try to mediate dispute

Police Chief Jamie Sullivan told selectmen they have been dealing with the dispute between the neighbors and Wally's for more than a year.

Sullivan said police have been working with Fleury to try to reach a resolution, even holding a mediation session last summer between the parties.

Fleury has been more than receptive, Sullivan said, installing sound insulation in the building and a fence in the back of the parking lot to block the sound.

"He has done steps far beyond any other establishment that I have dealt with to mitigate that issue," Sullivan said. "But it still remains, and we still have some issues with the parking lot and the folks outside."

Light said that noise is still a problem.

"You still hear the bass," he said. "It echoes through your head."

Sullivan said in 2011 police responded to 194 calls for service in the area of Wally's Pub, including 60 noise complaints.

"We had 13 arrests connected with that site (in 2011), and so far this year we have had 69 calls for service and five arrests," Sullivan said.

Fleury said he wants to be a good neighbor. That is why he spent nearly half a million dollars on a new addition with sound insulation and put up a fence to block the noise, he said.

Fleury said he hired a sound engineer to see what can be done to reduce noise.

"It wasn't something I was required to do, it was something that I chose to do in order to work with the town," Fleury said. "I was happy to do it because I'm a Hampton guy."

Fleury lives in town and owns several other properties at the beach, including La Bec Rouge restaurant.

Restrictions possible

Selectman Ben Moore made the motion for the June 25 public hearing, he said, because that is what should occur under the town's entertainment ordinance when written complaints are received by the board.

The vote to schedule the hearing came after several neighbors reiterated their concerns about noise and claims of drug use, public drinking and other illegal activity in the Wally's Pub parking lot.

Neighbors said they just want to see the problems resolved.

Eric Flynn, who rents out property in the area of Wally's during the summer, said visitors have complained and some have refused to return.

"I don't have a problem with the place, I just have a problem with the way it's run," said Carol Cheney.

Sullivan said the parking lot is not properly lighted, which may contribute to some of the alleged illegal activity. While police have recommended installing better lighting, Sullivan said, neighbors have opposed it.

"From our point of view, the more light back there the better," Sullivan said.

Selectman Richard Nichols said he believes there should be better lighting and that Wally's should consider hiring a parking lot attendant from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

"That is not an unreasonable expense," Nichols said. "Having the right individual supervising and managing the parking lot, the word gets out you don't screw around in there."

Moore said the June 25 hearing will allow the board to add additional restrictions or conditions on the pub's entertainment license. The additional restrictions must be made by recommendation of the health department, building department or police and fire departments.

Moore said he was shocked by the number of times police have responded to the location. "I think the owner has to understand there might be more that he can do," Moore said.

Selectmen overstepping?

Selectmen Chairman Rick Griffin was the lone board member to vote against holding the June 25 hearing.

"I think this is a very dangerous slope for the Board of Selectmen to get involved in," Griffin told the Hampton Union on Wednesday. "There are plenty of places that have generated complaints, and I have not see the Board of Selectmen act on any of their concerns."

Griffin said he does not want the hearing to be a spectacle. He would rather have seen the dispute settled between the neighbors and Fleury.

"I see Al as the type of person that he will work with the people," Griffin said. "He has always been willing to work with the neighbors."

Fleury said he's already taken further steps to address the recent complaints including having a staff member monitor the parking lot.

He also has surveillance cameras in the back lot.

"I'm here for the long haul, and I'm willing to work with anyone," Fleury said.

Wally's Pub located at 144 Ashworth Avenue in Hampton Beach.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]


Excerpts from neighbors' complaints sent to the Board of Selectmen:

"The neighbors, after trying unsuccessfully for years to work with the owner, have called police nearly nightly during the summer months with noise complaints, among other things! We have continually endured excessively loud music, drug use & alcohol in public & after hours, indecent exposure, public urination, fights, trespassing, fireworks, hit & run accidents, and the list goes on!!! We have notified town officials repeatedly of these offenses! We have attempted Mediation to solve the issues. All to no avail."

Tricia Desroches, neighbor

"The group of disgruntled residents in the streets that surrounds Wally's has been growing and growing. There needs to be some oversight to control the illegal and unlawful activity that is taking place. Again my recommendation is to have a detail police officer on duty patrolling the rear area and parking lot of Wallys, making sure there is no illegal activity, no public urinating, no drinking in the parking lot, no partying on the roof, no patrons with drinks outside the patio, no cars and bikes squealing tires and revving engines down the street."

Steve Light, neighbor

Wally's Pub's response:

"I'm looking to be a good neighbor. Rather than yell at me or say things that are wrong, I'd rather they just talk to me. I'm not that bad of a guy, and I'd work with them like I do with everyone else."

Al Fleury, owner

Return to Table of Contents