PITTSFIELD -- The Licensing Board has unanimously approved alcohol and innkeeper licenses for a proposed 95-room Hilton Garden Inn off South Street.

Unlike at the board's previous meeting, no one objected Monday to the transfer of an all-alcohol license from the former Groove Lounge to Shanti Hospitality and project developer Vijaysinh N. Mahida, who will be listed as manager until the hotel and its restaurant open.

Mahida said he expects the hotel -- planned for a site behind Guido's Fresh Marketplace on South Street -- will be built in 2014 and open in 2015.

At a prior Licensing Board meeting, the request for a license was tabled in light of an ongoing appeal of the building permit for the Hilton project before the city Zoning Board of Appeals.

However, the ZBA on Nov. 20 unanimously rejected that appeal, which was filed by the owner of the Comfort Inn at 1055 South St. over traffic and parking concerns.

The four-story, $8 million Hilton is planned for a 2.4-acre site at 1032 South St., located on a 270-foot driveway. The parcel formerly housed Dr. Leahy's Garden Center.

Attorney Thomas Hamel, of Martin, Oliveira & Hamel, representing Mahida, said he knows of no action by the Comfort Inn owners, Somnath Inc. and the Dasai family, to mount further appeals of the ZBA decision. The deadline for filing such an appeal is today, he said.

Also Monday, the Licensing Board approved the transfer of an all-alcohol restaurant license for the former Debbie Wong restaurant at 315 Dalton Ave. from the license holder, Wing Wah Garden Corp., to the property owner, John L. Hebert.

Hebert said through his attorney, Michael McCarthy, that he plans to seek a new restaurant operator as a tenant.

McCarthy said the former tenant, one of three that has operated as Debbie Wong since 1981, owed Hebert more than $51,000 when the restaurant closed in 2012. He said Hebert obtained a judgment in Superior Court for that amount, and the order specified that the license could only be sold to Hebert.

Board members Thomas P. Campoli and Dana Doyle questioned whether an auction for the license might be legally required if sought by the former restaurant operator. McCarthy agreed to outline those concerns to the state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, which also will have to approve the transfer.

The Superior Court ruling specifies that the amount owed to Hebert by the former tenant would be reduced by $22,500 if the license is transferred. He said the lease agreement with the tenant specified that the license could only be sold to the building owner.

Hebert said the property has been a restaurant site since 1972. It housed the Spaghetti Factory, he said, and the first incarnation of the Tahiti Lounge before it became Debbie Wong in 1981. The eatery was part of a Springfield-based chain of restaurants of the same name, and three still exist -- in Ware, West Springfield and Middletown, Conn.

The chain was founded by Thomas Wong of Ware, and Debbie Wong is the name of his daughter. The Pittsfield restaurant business was sold about seven years ago.

To reach Jim Therrien:
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