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Stonington cracks down on Mystic restaurant over live music

Mystic — Stonington officials are taking legal steps to crack down on Rocks 21, a Route 1 restaurant and bar that continues to have outdoor live music despite not having permission to do so. 

At Tuesday night's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Chairman Dave Rathbun expressed frustration that the restaurant owners have ignored repeated orders to stop and did not show up to discuss the issue with the commission despite being invited.

"The problem is they don't know what no means," Rathbun said. "Two weeks ago you could hear the music in Lords Point. I wish they were here to answer our questions but they have ignored us all along."

"They could have had the courtesy to show up," added Rathbun, who said the music could be heard as far away as downtown Mystic and Cove Road.

Rathbun said the town has notified the state liquor commission about the violations and Town Planner Keith Brynes said the town's next step is to seek a court injunction to stop the music.

This spring, a large number of outdoor seats, illegal banners and signs promoting live music that is not allowed on the property have appeared on the lawn of the bar, which is located at the Inn at Mystic on Route 1 just east of the Route 27 intersection. Commission members also said a stage with lighting has been erected on the lawn.

When the town recently granted a special use permit to the restaurant to expand its deck, it came with the stipulation that no amplified or live music would be allowed.

On June 7, the town's Zoning and Wetlands Official Candace Palmer issued her most recent cease-and-desist order to Albert Farrah, the operator of Rocks 21, outlining the restaurant's violations over the past year.

In August 2020, the town issued the restaurant a notice of violation requesting that it stop playing amplified DJ music on the outdoor pool deck. Three days later, Palmer wrote that Farrah agreed to discontinue the music. A month later, a live band was seen playing amplified music on the lawn and she issued a cease-and-desist order to the restaurant.

Then a few weeks ago on June 5, another live band was seen playing on the lawn. Palmer wrote in the June 7 cease-and-desist order that Gov. Ned Lamont's COVID-19 executive order that allowed town's to relax some zoning regulations until next year does not allow outdoor live entertainment unless it was previously permitted.

She ordered Rocks 21 to discontinue any amplified outdoor entertainment or face further legal action by the town, including fines of not less than $100 a day for each day the violation continues. The restaurant has until Thursday to appeal the order to the Zoning Board of Appeals. 

Palmer also wrote that if the restaurant wants to present outdoor entertainment, it needs to obtain a special use permit from the commission. In addition, she asked the restaurant to remove the nonpermitted banners from the property. The banners were still on the lawn late Tuesday afternoon. The restaurant's Facebook page lists live music scheduled for this coming Friday and Saturday night. The restaurant is allowed to have live music indoors.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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