Tuesday September 25, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- By the end of the year, the city wants the owner of a Fourth Street bar -- closed for more than two years -- to decide whether to keep or sell his liquor license.

The Pittsfield Licensing Board on Tuesday delayed until its December meeting any action against Willard Curtis for potentially having a so-called "pocket" license for The Tavern.

A "pocket" license refers to someone holding -- but not actively using -- a liquor, car dealership or other city-approved license.

Meanwhile, the five-member board unanimously supported a popular nightclub's plans to expand its hours of operation.

The owners of Chameleons, on East Street, say they soon will open on Mondays, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., the same hours as the club's Wednesday through Saturday schedule.

In The Tavern's case, the board requested that Curtis explain at its monthly meeting why the once-troubled bar has been closed since the spring of 2010, in an effort to determine if he had any intention of re-opening.

"I've been closed for a while due to health reasons," Curtis said. "I'm still maintaining the property, and I intend to re-open, find a partner and start a new place or license."

The board sympathized with Curtis -- to a point.

"We wish you good health, but the license has to be active," said Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano Jr.

Curtis vowed to re-open The Tavern or have another plan for his liquor license in three months or less.


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Curtis opened The Tavern in 1995, closing in 2008 to battle health issues. He recovered and re-opened in July 2009 until the spring of 2010, when ill health sidelined him again, forcing him to shut down his establishment.

Curtis, who is in his late 50s, says he's doing better and is too young to give up on the bar business.

The Tavern had a troubling stretch several years ago.

In June 2005, the board ordered Curtis to close the bar two hours earlier in response to several complaints and a shooting that occurred a month earlier in a parking lot adjacent to the bar.

Less than a year later, the board warned Curtis he was in danger of losing his liquor license for supposedly being uncooperative in a police investigation.

The board's warning, in March 2006, came in the wake of a car accident and subsequent fight outside the bar in late February. Police refuted Curtis' claim that nothing happened by citing statements made by those involved in the incident.

As for Chameleons, patrons have, in part, requested the nightclub be open Mondays, according to co-owner Melissa Drumm-Sweener.

"It came to my attention that New Year's Eve is on a Monday this year, and I wouldn't want to miss that," she said. "I also want to take advantage of Monday Night Football, as I have people asking me to be open for those games."