The owners of the Lower Mills Pub say they have an agreement sell the Dorchester Avenue bar to a prominent Boston restaurant operator. But first they need the Boston Licensing Board to give them eight weeks to unravel a tangled skein of legal issues left when longtime co-owner Nicholas Byrne died after a long illness five years ago.
At a hearing before the board on Tuesday, attorneys for the Byrne family and co-owner Jeremiah Nash said they have settled a Suffolk Superior Court lawsuit Nash filed against the family. They now want to settle other legal issues preventing the sale, which include the fact that the bar has not legally had a manager since Byrne died without a will in 2010 - and that it owes Boston roughly $80,000 in back property taxes dating to 2004.
The lawyers said that after Byrne died, the family just continued to operate the bar - without ever removing his name as manager from its annual license renewal applications to the board.
The board summoned the owners to a hearing today to determine just who owns the establishment after the matter had been "brought to the board's attention."
Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini declined to say how the board learned of the issue, but said "My problem is that someone's been operating that bar essentially illegally, so what do we do?"
The attorneys accused an unsuccessful bidder for the property of having ratted them out to the board in an attempt to scuttle the sale - for which they had hoped to get a purchase-and-sale agreement signed this week.
Nash's attorney, Joseph Brodigan, pleaded with the board to formally continue its hearing for eight weeks so that he and Byrne attorney Lawrence Feeney could resolve all the outstanding issues.
Brodigan said there's no harm to the public to let the bar continue to operate for another eight weeks, because the bar has been around for 35 years now with only minor transgressions on its record Forcing it to shut now would jeopardize the sale, which in turn could force Byrne's widow, Catherine, to lose her home because she is counting on the money from the sale to pay off her mortgage, now in foreclosure, he and Feeney said. It would also unfairly hurt Nash, who, despite having a 50% interest in the bar, was not involved in its operation and so would be an innocent victim of the legal issues, Brodigan said.
"If you suspend them, our sale is going down the drain," Feeney said. "A lot of people are going to suffer needlessly."
The board decides on Thursday whether to continue its hearing for eight weeks.