Saturday March 2, 2013

The assertion of a city bartender that it was "no big deal" if Pittsfield police reported a violation to the Licensing Board may be indicative of the attitude of many bars and taverns around the city. The licensing board can make it a big deal by applying penalties that hurt.

The barkeep at the Sportsman’s Cafe was responding to two police officers who observed that the bar was full of patrons two minutes after the 2 a.m. closing time. The owner told the Licensing Board last week that patrons refused to leave, but closing the bar to new patrons at 1 a.m. or sooner and shutting the taps around 1:30 should persuade customers to call it a night. As the saying goes, "You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here."

The Sportsman’s got off easy with a three-day license suspension effective only if there is a similar incident. The cafe may prove deserving, but past history with other taverns suggests that the board’s kindness may not be rewarded. The board tried to work with the late and unlamented Hermann Alexander’s, which didn’t respond in kind. The two-week suspension encompassing the Super Bowl given the Back Nine Bar & Grill for allowing numerous underage customers inside last July is the kind of penalty that’s a big deal.

Too many of Pittsfield’s bars have an entitlement mentality, along with a belief that if caught in violation of regulations there will be few if any repercussions. That attitude has no place in the city, and the Licensing Board should not be reluctant to do whatever it takes to cure it.