Board says Back Nine Bar and Grill's liquor suspension stands
PITTSFIELD -- The Licensing Board has refused to reduce its two-week suspension of a city bar's liquor license for allowing dozens of minors on a single night to enter the establishment using false identification.
On Monday, the board -- backed by the city solicitor -- told representatives of the Back Nine Bar and Grill located at the GEAA on Crane Avenue that the city stands by the 14-day liquor license suspension issued four months ago.
"Nobody is looking to negotiate anything," said Licensing Board Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano Jr.
The suspension is on hold, pending an appeals hearing in January before the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.
However, Back Nine's attorney, Thomas Hamel, was hoping to avoid the yet-to-be scheduled ABCC hearing by reaching a local compromise.
"My client is asking for a reduction which would result in us dropping the appeal," Hamel said. "My client believes the suspension is excessive."
City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan said Hamel had approached her with an offer of a three-day suspension, but stood by the board's ruling.
The board seemed taken aback by Back Nine's request to deal down the length of the suspension.
"I almost feel this is being treated as a criminal case and negotiating with the district attorney on sentencing," said Dana S. Doyle.
The five-member panel's decision on Aug. 20 followed its show-cause hearing into an incident at the Back Nine, in which police seized 41 fake driver's licenses from nearly 70 young adults who were bused to the bar for a reunion party.
According to city police, several officers arrived at the Back Nine just before 11 p.m. on July 21 as part of a citywide sweep by local authorities that night to crack down on crime and improve relations with residents.
They immediately found several young men and women trying to exit the premises, one male with two bottles of beer in his hand.
When asked to produce some identification, he showed police a New York state driver's license clearly stamped "Under 21."
In all, police claimed that more than 30 young adults were inside and another 40 were outside the bar or arriving on a bus from a local motel where they were staying.
Based on the confiscated false driver's licenses, the partiers hailed from 13 states, mostly from New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
They were former counselors at Camp Greylock in Becket and were in the Berkshires for a reunion, according to investigating officers.
Camp Greylock officials told police they had nothing to do with the gathering, claiming it was solely organized by the camp alumni via social media.
During the show-cause hearing, Back Nine manager Brian Uliasz said everyone was carded, but without electronic scanners, it's difficult to spot phony IDs.
Once police rounded up the young adults, police asked them to fork over their fake ID's and they were bused back to their motel.
Lt. Michael Grady noted that no arrests were made or charges filed against the mostly underage drinkers.
A police report alleged that many of the young men and women "smelled of alcohol, were unsteady on their feet and were slurring when they spoke."
Uliasz had said the partiers had already been drinking when they arrived, a claim partially supported by police, who say those who had just arrived on the bus threw beer cans and cups out the vehicle's windows.
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