PITTSFIELD -- The Licensing Board has slapped Johnny's Beach Club on Wahconah Street with a seven-day suspension and a 60-day early closing directive in response to a melee outside the bar on March 15.
The board session Friday followed a show-cause board hearing March 31 on the incident, which resulted in seven arrests and at least two police officers being kicked or punched.
In debating the decision, board members noted that the bar, formerly called Pepe's Wings & Dogs but under the same ownership, has had its liquor license suspended three times since 2005 and had its 2 a.m. closing time reduced to midnight for 30 days.
Dana Doyle said it is important to show a progressive response to incidents of this kind, meaning suspensions and mandated early closing times should be increased.
The board had discussed a suspension of seven or more days and a midnight closing time for up to 90 days.
Richard Stockwell said he was uncomfortable with closing the bar at midnight for 90 days but said 60 days "would get the job done," and that proposal was approved unanimously.
"Sixty days clearly sends the message that we want to send," Doyle said.
Concerning the suspension, Doyle said the bar has served three three-day license suspensions since 2005, adding that raising that to seven days would be appropriate.
That also was approved unanimously. Acting Chairman Robert Quattrochi said the suspension would begin on Monday.
After the 60-day period of early closing times, the owner, John Giardina, would have to return for a review by the board, which will also request a report from city police.
Stockwell said following the votes that liquor license holders in the city should take heed. "Speaking for myself, I am not going to tolerate anything like this again," he said.
Doyle said that if further incidents occurred at Johnny's Beach Club the board might have to consider recommending that the liquor license be sold -- as was done with the former Hermann Alexander's bar in 2012.
"This is a problem John [Giardina] has to solve," said Quattrochi, referring to crowds of people leaving at roughly the same time.
The problem on March 15 began around 1 a.m. when police responded to a call from a bar employee that two patrons were tossed out for fighting. When officers arrived, they said about 100 people were leaving the bar and the night had been cut short by bar staff.
Police said the crowd soon got out of control, with some urging others to fight police, which prompted officers to call for backup. Eventually, all on-duty Pittsfield police, along with help and the Lanesborough, Dalton police departments, state police and deputies from the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office responded. The situation took about an hour to resolve, police said.
Giardina, who was visiting his mother in Florida at the time, said during the hearing that he was dismayed to hear what happened.
Since January 2013, local authorities have responded to 45 calls involving various incidents at the bar, police told the board.