PITTSFIELD - A city bar has lost its liquor license for at least two months in the wake of last month's raid by police.
The city's Licensing Board on Monday slapped Hermann Alexander's with a 60-day liquor license suspension - effective immediately - with the option to extend or lift the punishment when the 60-day period ends in mid-July. The decision came following the board's hearing to review the criminal case against the Lyman Street establishment that involves alleged illegal gambling, drug dealing and liquor law violations at the bar.
"This seems to me a situation that is out of control - and that's an understatement," said Licensing Board member Thomas Campoli.
Following a sixmonth investigation, the Berkshire County Drug Task Force on April 27 raided Hermann Alexander's. The police action resulted in the bar's owner, Mitchell Grossjung, and another Pittsfield man being charged with making unlawful payouts on two video poker machines in the bar. Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges. In addition, four other city residents were arrested and charged with conspiring to violate drug laws in connection with alleged cocaine dealing inside the bar and in its parking lot. These four people have also pleaded not guilty.
No drugs were found during the raid, but police said they found "dealer blowouts," the corners of plastic bags that are used to hold small amounts of cocaine, on the floor and hidden inside a bathroom ceiling.
Pittsfield Police Lt. Michael Grady told the board Hermann Alexander's had become a "retail center" for cocaine with suppliers distributing drugs to lower-level dealers and the dealers then selling to customers inside the bar and in the parking lot.
"A person would walk into the bar, make a purchase of cocaine and walk right out," Grady said. "Officers witnessed these short stays by known cocaine dealers."
Grossjung's attorney, Robert D. Sullivan Jr., emphasized his client wasn't involved in the drug trade.
"None of these controlled purchases came from Mr. Grossjung," Sullivan said. "He [also] disputes a lot of the information you have received."
Nevertheless, police contend Grossjung was aware of the drug dealing.
"Mr. Grossjung admitted he looked the other way at [what went on] as he was in financial trouble," Grady said.
During the course of what Grady says is still an ongoing investigation, authorities also claim they witnessed several state liquor law violations, including Hermann Alexander's being open more than two hours past the mandatory 2 a.m. closing time.
Furthermore, Grady noted the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, which assisted in the investigation, plans to bring charges the bar was illegally selling alcohol purchased at retail stores, rather than from wholesalers, and selling it to its customers. " These are some serious violations of the liquor laws," said Robert Quattrochi of the Licensing Board. "This owner has been warned before to get his act together."
Quattrochi cited incidents Hermann Alexander's that resulted in board reprimands in each of the last three years, two of them under the previous owner. In April 2011, Glenn Grossjung sold the bar to his son, Mitchell Grossjung. Attorney Sullivan said Mitchell Grossjung had hoped to change the culture at the bar, but that hasn't happened yet.
Licensing Board Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. urged the younger Grossjung to consider selling the liquor license and close Hermann Alexander's, given its recent track record.
"This has been nothing but a troublesome bar dealing with a [ certain] clientele," Massimiano said.
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