Pittsfield board yanks liquor license from owner of former Debbie Wong's restaurant


PITTSFIELD — The city's Licensing Board has yanked an inactive liquor license from a Dalton Avenue building owner who failed to find a new license holder.

The five-member panel on Monday unanimously revoked the license that was transferred to John Herbert in December 2013 from the former Debbie Wong restaurant at 315 Dalton Ave., which closed in 2012 after 31 years in business.

In March, the board directed Herbert to find a buyer for the license by their June meeting or they would take it back feeling he had plenty of time to reactivate the license.

On Friday, Herbert notified the board in writing he would be out of town Monday for medical reasons and unlikely to make the meeting.

The board was compelled to follow through on its March ultimatum, given Herbert's absence.

"This board has given him more chances than he deserves," said Richard Stockwell.

"I don't think it makes sense for him to come back again," added Thomas Campoli. "The [state] statute gives him the right to appeal. If he wants to go that route, God bless him."

Under Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission regulations, the city would not be able to reissue the license if the board's decision stands.

"Once you take back the license it's gone — no one else can have it," noted Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano.

Herbert has told the board at previous meetings he was unable to find someone to lease the building for another restaurant and suggested he may try to sell the building along with the license. Unable to find a new tenant, the board has repeatedly urged Herbert to transfer the license, with their approval, to someone who could use it.

The city has been closely tracking the former Debbie Wong license and several others that have been inactive for about six months or more.

For the past two years, the Licensing Board has summoned representatives from six liquor license holders to give repeated updates as to when they will again be selling alcoholic beverages. Until Monday, the board has been very patient with the licensees, including the Polish-American Club on Linden Street.

The club has lacked a manager of record on its all-alcohol club license since its last manager, Stella Spence, died in July 2014. The club has been closed since Jan. 1, 2015, unable to maintain steady leadership and a board of directors that could vote on a new manager.

John Kerwood, representing the club, told the board Monday he is almost single-handily trying to rally members into taking action, but to no avail. Massimiano urged Kerwood to remind club members they are in danger of losing their license, just has Herbert did earlier in the meeting.

Campoli believes the club is running out of time to resolve its internal issues.

"I seriously doubt this entity can pull it together," he said.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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