NEW SHOREHAM, R.I. (WPRI) — A popular tourist destination on Block Island has had its liquor and entertainment licenses temporarily suspended as a result of a chaotic weekend earlier this month.
After hearing hours of testimony, New Shoreham’s licensing board voted Monday night to suspend Ballard’s Beach Resort’s licenses for two weeks. The board agreed that Ballard’s permitted the venue to become disorderly, hosted an event with inadequate security, and presented a danger to public health and safety on Monday, Aug. 8.
Ballard’s had hosted a reggae festival that day, during which a fight broke out that was captured on camera and resulted in one arrest.
Later that night, there was another brawl on board one of the ferries bringing people back to the mainland. Police said two people were hurt and seven others were arrested.
R.I. State Police Capt. Peter Chabot, who was named interim chief of the New Shoreham Police Department back in June, was the first person to take the stand Monday. He said the security guards at Ballard’s were outnumbered and overwhelmed by thousands of patrons, some of whom were jumping over the fence to get in.
When the event ended, it was a “mass exodus” to the ferries, according to Chabot. He estimated that more than 3,000 people were in line and said most were “hot, tired, frustrated.”
“Extremely chaotic, tumultuous,” Chabot said, describing the scene. “There were several altercations in the line, several verbal altercations, several physical altercations.”
Ballard’s owner Steven Filippi also testified, saying the event was not heavily advertised and he brought in extra security. He said “there has never been a problem in the last six years” of Reggae Fest and it’s a shame that a handful of people ruined the event for others.
Brian LaPlante, an attorney representing Ballard’s, said at one point Filippi physically blocked the entrance to prevent more people from entering.
State police said they had a presence on both the island and the outgoing ferries that night, but the fight took place on an unscheduled ferry which was added late to help with the crowds.
“We had troopers going on each ferry that would leave,” Chabot said. “The last two ferries, we didn’t have the manpower to send anybody on, so we had a total of six officers on the last two ferries in line with over 1,000 individuals.”
Following the events of that weekend, Ballard’s canceled the Roots & Rhythm Festival planned for Aug. 21.
The town of New Shoreham livestreamed Monday’s hearing on its YouTube page.