PITTSFIELD — A bar that had its alcohol license suspended for seven days and its early morning hours curtailed for two months will be allowed to resume its former operations as of April 3, the city Licensing Board decided Monday.
After hearing from Arthur Beattie Jr., the manager and a co-owner at Lach's Lounge, and Pittsfield Police Lt. Michael Grady, the board voted unanimously to allow the 129 Fenn St. bar to remain open until 2 a.m. — lifting a midnight closing time that was imposed after a patron was fatally shot in January after leaving the bar.
The bar's license was suspended on Feb. 3 and reinstated on Feb. 10, but the closing time of 2 a.m. was pushed back to midnight for 60 days. The bar also was told to install a security system, including cameras, and to have at least one owner at the bar nights, especially on weekends.
In answer to board questions, Beattie said a metal detector also is being used in the bar.
The board also unanimously approved reinstating the bar's entertainment license, which has been suspended as well. However, Beattie said, "I think we are going to ease back into that."
He said having a DJ and music contributed to problems at the bar, and he wants to assess the idea of a return to that format before deciding to bring it back.
"Things also happen when the people who own it are not there," board Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano said at one point.
"I think you are absolutely right about that," board member Thomas Campoli said.
Grady reported that police had not received any calls from the bar during the 60-day period, and a visit to Lach's confirmed that a security camera system has been installed.
The board voted 4-0 to lift the remaining restrictions as of April 3, but members said they would be inclined to imposed stricter penalties if there is further trouble associated with the bar.
Massimiano said Lach's Lounge was not an establishment that attracted the Licensing Board's attention in the past. But he noted that the location near the newly renovated Howard Building housing, the Highland Restaurant, City Hall and the Police Department is not one where the city wants to see incidents of crime.
The penalties followed an hour-long show-cause hearing Feb. 3 requested by the Pittsfield Police Department, which determined that several people left the bar drunk on Jan. 23. Police had responded to the area of Lach's Lounge after receiving a 911 call around 1:30 a.m. that day of an "unresponsive male" in the nearby city parking lot.
The man, later identified as James Domiguez of Springfield, had been shot to death after being inside the bar, according to Grady. The homicide remains the subject of an ongoing investigation.
Grady emphasized during the Feb. 3 hearing that it was a result of officers finding several intoxicated people who had been in Lach's Lounge, rather than because of the shooting.
Two months earlier, the board put the Lach's Lounge license holders on notice for a lack of cooperation after the Oct. 31 shooting of a city man on Lincoln Street. Apparently, the weapon used had been in the bar prior to the shooting. The bar owners weren't on the premises the night of that Halloween night shooting.
During the February hearing, representatives from Cantarella School of Dance and My-Com Federal Credit Union said they were troubled to see the active crime scene on Jan. 23.
And Mayor Linda M. Tyer, in a prepared statement, noted that Lach's Lounge is near City Hall, adding that a liquor license is a privilege that comes with responsibilities.
She stated in part, "The public is counting on us to ensure their safety," and called for sending a "strong message" that illegal activities will not be tolerated.
At the request from the board, Grady said police will check to learn whether at least one of the owners is in the bar on weekend nights.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.