Pittsfield Licensing Board asks for updates on inactive liquor licenses

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PITTSFIELD — The city Licensing Board on Monday asked for updates from the holders of four currently inactive liquor licenses and set a deadline for a sales agreement concerning one all-alcohol license.

The board also approved raising the city's official temporary population figure from 50,000 to 75,000, which will allow the issuance of up to five additional seasonal package store liquor licenses.

Meeting with the board Monday were representatives of holders of liquor licenses associated with the Polish Community Club on Linden Street, the former Chameleons nightspot on East Street, the former Baba Louie's Sourdough Pizza on Depot Street, and the former Debbie Wong Restaurant & Lounge on Dalton Avenue.

John Herbert, holder of the license for the Debbie Wong restaurant at 315 Dalton Ave., told the board in providing an update, "I have nothing new to say; it is in the hands of the Realtor."

However, board members noted that efforts to sell the building and/or the liquor license separately have now dragged on for well over a year. After some debate they decided to set a deadline after which the license will be revoked.

Herbert was given until the June board meeting to produce a signed purchase and sale agreement.

Previously, board member Diane Pero and others suggested a 30- to 60-day time limit, but Richard Stockwell's proposal to allow a 90-day grace period was ultimately accepted unanimously.

Pero questioned how aggressively the property was being marketed, saying the former restaurant site is listed online for more than the assessed value, and that the facility seems too large for the needs of most restaurants opening today.

She and other board members also pressed Herbert on why he wasn't more aggressively marketing the all-alcohol license separately.

"I can't believe there is not interest in an all-alcohol license in this city," Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano said.

"You can do what you have to do," Herbert said at one point. "I've done all I can do."

He said he believes the economy could be to blame for a lack of interest in the Dalton Avenue property.

John Kerwood, representing the Polish Community Club, said he has notified more than 200 club members and set a membership meeting for April 24, during which time a new slate of club officers and a manager for the bar liquor license will be selected.

The club has struggled for more than a year to find a permanent replacement for the late Stella Spence as manager.

Kerwood said the club also is prepared to pay $1,100 the club owes to update its license, but the bank won't release the funds until there is a new board and officers in place to sign off on the funds withdrawal.

The board continued the matter to May, when Kerwood said the outstanding issues should be resolved.

"It has been a long struggle for you, but the end may be at hand," Massimiano said.

Attorney Anthony Doyle updated the board on efforts to sell the liquor license for the former Chameleons at 1350 East St. He said it is being "actively marketed," and while one deal fell through, there are several other parties showing interest, and a resolution is possible by the board's May meeting.

Doyle said there had been attempts to sell the property and the license, but now selling the license for use elsewhere in the city is being considered.

The liquor license is in the name of Melissa Drumm-Sweener, who operated the nightspot as a tenant in the building, which is owned by the Pamela Rice family. Doyle said Drumm-Sweener has signed off on a potential sale of the license.

Paul Masiero, of Richmond, owner of the former Baba Louie's at 34 Depot St., told the board six or seven parties have expressed an interest in opening a business at the site. He said he is working with the building owner, George Whaling of Whaling Properties, and believes a new establishment will be in place within eight months.

He closed his restaurant in November, saying it was taking up too much of his time to operate restaurants in Great Barrington, Hudson, N.Y., and Pittsfield, and he would reluctantly close the city operation.

The board asked for an update on progress at its September meeting and for a letter updating the board in June.

The board also approved an official figure for the temporary population of Pittsfield at 75,000, an increase of 25,000.

For each 5,000 increase, the board will be allowed to approve another seasonal package store liquor license.

"That sounds great to me," said board member Thomas Campoli, who added that the current number of seasonal package store licenses is now at the maximum under the 50,000 figure.

Massimiano said the state Alcohol Beverages Control Commission had informed the board Pittsfield was using "a very low ball estimate" for the number of visitors that annually swell the temporary population.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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