The owner of Cape Ann's Marina Resort and its Mile Marker One restaurant says she's not sure when or how the venue and its bridge deck became "the hot spot" last year for people looking to hear and dance to the electric sounds pounded out by bands that played there 'til the witching hours on Friday and Saturday nights.

"All of a sudden, we were seeing hundreds and hundreds of people we had never seen or drawn from before rushing over to us for the music," Tobin Dominick says now. "We've never experienced that much traffic on our whole property before."

Some business owners might embrace that as a gold mine. But Dominick said it became "a real-life problem" for her employees.

"We had to take drastic steps," she said, noting that Mile Marker hired additional security staff at the time and put up fencing to define parking lanes and other parts of the property. The site off Essex Avenue includes a hotel and full marina in addition to an events pavilion, the restaurant and music venues.

"When (the summer season) was all over, we talked about how we can't do this again," Dominick said. "We just can't."

They're not going to.

Appearing last week before the Gloucester Licensing Board to renew Mile Marker's entertainment license, Dominick, entertainment agent/booker Dan King and new bar manager Patrick Hurd, who has extensive hospitality experience and comes to Gloucester from Olema, California, let the licensing panel know they are scaling back their music to focus on softer sounds, generally without the drums and other trappings of full bands.

Slowing the beat

The step goes beyond being "proactive," said Dominick, who added that she and other staffers are still contacting local musicians and bands and explaining the changes. She said that, in some cases, bands may be rescheduled for other dates or times, or even referred to other Gloucester venues to play. But, she said, the most definitive change will be to end any Friday and Saturday night musical  performances by 11 p.m. and to tone down the amplified sound.   

"We need to refocus, get back to the roots," said Dominick, whose family has run the marina since 1971 and featured live music off its bridge deck for the past six years. "We're doing music — and we are going to be doing music. But we want to cater to all of the people who come here — the people who stay in the hotel, the boaters who come in to the marina, the special events we have, and the people who come here for a good meal.

"We want to be a place where families can come in and enjoy a meal, enjoy a great view, and hear some good music," she said, "but we never intended for it to get like it did."

Edward Pasquina, chairman of the city's Licensing Board, said the panel was poised to question Dominick and her team about addressing overcrowding and noise issues last week. But he emphasized the board never came close to taking any action regarding Mile Marker's license, and it did not change any provisions of Mile Marker's license.

"This is something she's doing all on her own. There was no admonishment from us at all," he said. "I give (Dominick) credit.  She's always been very community-oriented, community-focused, and this shows that again."

Gloucester police logs, especially over the summer, grew to include a number of listings in which officers responded to "restore the peace" following a dust-up in the Mile Marker parking areas. But few resulted in any arrests or major disturbances.

"There were some, but none of them that I can think of ever rose to the level of any criminal action," said interim Police Chief John McCarthy. "It was a business that only developed music (as a key component) over the last four, five, six years, and when you get something new like that you tend to get more people complaining because it is new. But our people never found it that bad when they went over there, and I can tell you that any time that happened, management complied and would turn down the music.

The weekend rushes on Mile Marker came during a time in which Gloucester has lost some of its live music and drinking mainstays. The Dog Bar remains shut down after owner Andrew Mulholland sought to move that largely music venue into the former Mitch's Sports Bar & Grill owned by Deo Braga — and Mitch's remains closed because Mulholland and Braga remain gridlocked in court over the status of any lease for Mulholland to use the Mitch's property.

Dominick said Mile Marker is poised to kick off its new music season May 4 with its one and only full-band offering of the season — the Herland Brothers, a country music group that will play in a ticketed event.

She said Mile Marker will also continue to book weddings and special events such as the Bluefin Blowout benefit tuna tournament, one of several local charity fundraisers it hosts throughout the year. But when it comes to regular weekend music, regulars this summer should be ready to chill for some softer offerings.   

"We're also going to be focused on our food, on our service," she said. "The whole intention (of the deck) was to have people able to dine outside, enjoy the view, have a good time with your friends and family — and enjoy and experience Gloucester. That's what we're going to help people do."

Ray Lamont may be reached at 978-675-2705 or rlamont@gloucestertimes.com