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November 30. 2013 10:57PM

Restaurant questions exclusion from Hampton Holiday Parade parade


Bill Niland, owner of the Chop Shop Pub & Grub in Seabrook, poses with his daughter and a few costumed characters who walked alongside his float in the annual Hampton Holiday Parade last year. (Courtesy)

HAMPTON - Some area residents are upset because a Seabrook-based restaurant that conducts an annual toy drive has been excluded this year from the annual Hampton Holiday Parade.

Comments have sprung up on Experience Hampton Inc.'s Facebook page both in defense of the decision and in support of the Chop Shop Pub & Grub, a "bike-friendly and classic car bar" that opened in 2009 and has participated in at least four previous parades.

Bill Niland, owner of the Chop Shop, said he's most concerned that the exclusion from the parade - which is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7 - will hurt his efforts to collect toys to help needy children. By the end of the parade, the float is usually half-full of donations from the crowds, he said.

"It's a huge exposure of my Toys For Tots program," Niland said.

This is the fourth year he's hosted a drive, and it will be held Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. at the Chop Shop, 920 Lafayette Road (Route 1), Seabrook.

Chop Shop submitted its application to enter a float this year early in November, Niland said. He said the rejection, which he only learned of from an online posting yesterday, was frustrating because no real reason was given in an email he received Nov. 21, and the Chop Shop had no opportunity to rectify any concerns.

"I have left myself open for discussion for this," Niland said.

According to a statement issued Saturday from the Experience Hampton Board of Directors:

"It's about safety & liability, pure and simple. . Our decision had nothing to do with the good work that goes on at the Chop Shop. It has nothing to do with veterans, giving away free meals at Thanksgiving, Toys for Tots or any of that. It was the recommendation of the safety committee, after the first year when one or more bikes did a "burnout" downtown, the next year people hanging off the float. The board of directors went with the recommendation of the safety committee, and that recommendation was reconsidered earlier this week and still decided to follow the safety recommendation."

John Nyhan, president of Experience Hampton's board of directors, referred further questions to Hampton police Sgt. Joe Jones, the public safety committee chairman with Experience Hampton, who could not be reached for comment about the parade.

Niland said the committee didn't bring up concerns to him about these safety issues, which seemed to be unique incidents.

In 2010, Niland recalled that a motorcyclist not affiliated with the Chop Shop revved his bike a little too loud to thrill crowds during the parade. He added police dealt with the issue right away, and there haven't been similar problems since.

Niland said some Hampton residents expressed concerns about motorcycles and noise pollution in the past, but these incidents are unrelated to the holiday float.

"It's kind of an ongoing problem with Hampton and bikers," Niland said. "We represent that demographic."

Niland said many motorcyclists from Rolling Thunder, the Patriot Riders and American Legion Posts have ridden with their float without incident.

Additionally, Niland said occupants on the Chop Shop's float and the staff who hand out candy to kids follow the designated safety procedures. He added there are plenty of photos on Experience Hampton Inc.'s Facebook page that show other safety issues, including low railings, people hanging out of school buses and children standing in police cruisers and fire trucks.

The parade, which is taking on a "vintage" theme this year, is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. along the North Hampton town line. It will head southward along Lafayette Road and end in front of the Town Hall on Winnacunnet Road.

For more information, go to facebook.com/experiencehampton or http://chopshoppub.com.


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