PITTSFIELD — In the wake of recent gun-related incidents, the city's Licensing Board has restored regular hours to a Wahconah Street bar and warned another on Fenn Street its hours could be curtailed.
The five member panel voted 3-2 on Monday to allow Johnny's Beach Club to immediately resume a closing time of 2 a.m. as the owner has taken steps to boost security and was cooperating with police following a shooting there two months ago. Board members Diane Pero and Dana Doyle opposed the move.
The board in October had imposed a midnight closing after a patron was shot in the foot shortly before 2 a.m. Sept. 26, as he was exiting the back door.
Meanwhile, the board put Lach's Lounge on notice for a lack of cooperation regarding an incident tied to the Oct. 31 shooting of a city man.
"You come back with a similar issue and I will be looking at hour reductions for you," Doyle told bar co-owner Arthur D. Beattie Jr.
The board's actions followed separate show-cause hearings related to firearms in the establishments.
In an October hearing about the Johnny's Beach Club incident, the board learned staff notified owner John Giardina about the shooting before calling 911.
Giardina has fully cooperated with police, according to Lt. Michael Grady, providing a photograph and video that indicated a shooting took place. The cooperation put Giardina back in good standing with the majority of the board.
"I commend you for helping police ... and recommend your hours go back to 2 a.m.," said Richard Stockwell.
As a result of the September shooting, Giardina has installed metal detectors to ensure weapons don't make it through the front door, according to his attorney, Mark Brennan.
"It's a no nonsense policy," he said. "If the metal detector goes off, [the patron] is pat-searched - just like entering court."
Doyle was pleased with the stepped up security measure.
"This will make your staff safer, your patrons safer, the whole neighborhood safer," she said.
However, Pero remained troubled by another major incident at the bar — a March 2014 melee involving nearly 100 people leaving the bar that resulted in seven arrests. The board hit the bar with a seven-day suspension, followed by consecutive 60-day closings at midnight, then at 1 a.m. before the regular 2 a.m. closing was restored in August 2014.
The Lach's Lounge incident stems from a disturbance at the Fenn Street establishment about 1:15 a.m. Oct. 31. As police arrived to investigate, the bar was emptying out and a member of the security informed officers one man had handed another man a gun inside, but had left.
Later questioning of the same bar employee determined the man who received the gun was still in the bar when police first responded. The revised account didn't sit well with Grady.
"If there was a gun in the bar and security knows, you can't wait until the bar is cleared out to tell us," he said.
Beattie now has a doorman using a wand metal detector on everyone who enters the bar.
"I certainly don't want it to happen again," he said.
The gun swap occurred 15 minutes before a shooting on nearby Lincoln Street in which Anthony "Dollar" Robinson, last known address Albany, N.Y., allegedly fired three shots at a male victim, striking him once in the abdomen.
Robinson and his girlfriend were at Lach's Lounge, where they had been in an argument with another couple, prior to the shooting, police said, but it was unclear whether Robinson was involved in the gun exchanging hands.
"We've had extremely limited cooperation from witnesses," Grady said. "We can't connect the dots."
Robinson was arrested in Connecticut and later arraigned in Berkshire County, where he remains in custody.
In a third show cause hearing, the board took no action against Methuselah Bar & Lounge on North Street for twice exceeding its capacity by 20 to 30 patrons — eight days apart. The first overcrowding occurred Oct. 15 as police escorted investigators with the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission on a routine inspection of liquor license holders throughout the city.
The ABCC and police found the upscale North Street establishment had 80 people inside at one time, almost double the 49-person limit, according to Grady. He said the ABCC plans to summons owner Yuki Cohen to Boston for a hearing on the matter.
Police discovered another overcrowding situation Methuselah of about 70 people on Oct. 23 while investigating an incident outside the bar unrelated to the capacity issue, Grady said.
"I'm looking for them to tighten up [operations], maybe get a door manager," he said.
Cohen replied a doorman now keeps a head count during peak hours, especially during the three busiest nights of the week.
"I will personally be there Thursday, Friday and Saturday monitoring the crowd," she said.
Cohen cited an unexpected boom in business in recent months for regularly having a packed house on weekends.
"There are some establishments that wish they had your problem," Stockwell said.