Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 8, 2017

RI Supreme Court Quashes Decision to Deny Victualing Licenses at Historic Mansions Finding City Council Failed to Provide Reasons Relied on to Reach Decision

Petitioners, the Preservation Society of Newport County and Newport Catering, Inc., d/b/a Glorious Affairs, Ltd., sought review on certiorari of a decision of the respondent, the City Council of the City of Newport, which denied two applications for victualing licenses. In these applications, the petitioners proposed to sell pre-wrapped food prepared off-site, along with snacks and nonalcoholic drinks, at two historic mansions in Newport: the Elms Carriage House and the Marble House Chinese Tea House. On appeal, the petitioners argued that the Council impermissibly relied upon zoning considerations as its basis for denying their applications for victualing licenses. Additionally, petitioners argued that, pursuant to § 5.72.020 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Newport, the Council was required to consider only health and safety issues in deciding whether to issue or deny the licenses.

Upon review of the record, the court found that neither the City Clerk’s denial letter to the petitioners nor the transcript of the hearing before the Council contained a statement of the reasons relied upon by the Council for its decision. The court determined that this failure to point to any meaningful evidence in the record relative to health and/or safety concerns was a violation of § 5.72.020 of the Newport Ordinances. Moreover, the record indicated that several members of that Council chose to focus on zoning concerns, which should not have impacted the Council’s decision-making. Accordingly, the petition for certiorari was granted, and the decision of the Council was quashed.

Preservation Society of Newport County v. City Council of City of Newport, WL 1015278 (2017)

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