Pittsfield Licensing Board endorses changes to cafe seating process


PITTSFIELD -- The city Licensing Board has signed off on a proposal that would make it easier for restaurants to get permission to offer outdoor seating.

A draft revision of the ordinance, which had been requested by business owners and others to streamline the process, adds details that are designed to clarify requirements and speed up the process, City Planner C.J. Hoss told board members.

One change is the inclusion of a timeline for processing a permit request of 14 days, along with a listing of which boards or departments must sign off or issue approvals.

The draft plan will go back to the City Council, he said, and could be sent to the council’s Ordinance and Rules Committee for further review.

Among issues still under consideration, Hoss said, are whether businesses that do not serve liquor should pay the same annual fee as those that do -- now $300 -- and whether there should be a provision allowing outdoor serving during unseasonably warm weather outside the normal May through October permitting period.

In answer to questions from board members, Hoss said those restaurants that serve alcohol indoors but do not plan to sell it outside would still have to come before the Licensing Board with an application for a permit. The state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission also would have to approve the cafe license.

Other appropriate departments, such as the health, police and fire departments, and public works officials, also would have to review the application.

Hoss said other provisions include:

n A moveable barrier of up to four feet in height to set off the seating.

n Access lanes for pedestrians and the handicapped into the establishment and compliance with zoning and health and safety requirements.

n Liability insurance that holds the city and its officials harmless.

n A closing time of no later than 11 p.m.

n Enforcement of permit provisions by the police department, through the issuance of fines.

Also Monday, City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan met with the board concerning a state law provision which, if adopted by the city, would allow the board to change one seasonal liquor license per year to an annual license. Degnan said the state provision, which other communities have adopted, is seen as a way to allow additional year-round licenses beyond the limit set by the state, based on population.

Board member Thomas Campoli said he sees the option as allowing the city to make up for the annual licenses that are inactive at a given time, adding that it could become a spur for economic development.

Dana Doyle said the state law has been in effect since the early 1990s but the city has not adopted its provisions. "We should take advantage of it," she said.

She and Campoli said the board still would have the option of not changing any seasonal licenses to annual licenses, depending on the applicant and the situation.

Degnan said separate provisions cover package stores and establishments that serve alcohol, and she intends to submit both options to the council for consideration.

The city would still be able to keep some seasonal licenses, she said.

Doyle said the issue surfaced because some seasonal license holders typically come before the board to seek an extension to allow them to serve through the holidays.

To reach Jim Therrien:


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