PITTSFIELD — The Proprietor's Lodge was hit with a 7-day liquor license suspension on Monday, after the Licensing Board found the venue violated several COVID-19 restrictions during a wedding late last month.
The decision to suspend the Lodge's liquor license came by split vote of the board, with Chair Thomas Campoli, Dina Guiel Lampiasi and Kathleen Amuso in favor and Vice Chair Richard Stockwell and Dennis Powell opposed.
The venue's owner, Eric Taylor, interjected as members moved to take the vote at the remote public meeting, saying "I want to appeal this" and later confirming to The Eagle that he plans to appeal the suspension.
The Licensing Board called the hearing after city health officials cited the venue for failing to enforce social distancing requirements and mask requirements, exceeding the cap on gatherings and having live entertainment in the form of a DJ on premises.
"There is ample evidence that the licencee violated Gov. Baker's order number 44," said Campoli, referencing the now-outdated COVID-19 executive order that was in place at the time of the wedding on July 31. "The licensee has essentially admitted that."
Under that order, outdoor gatherings were limited to 100 attendees (the cap has since been reduced to 50) and indoor gatherings were limited to 25 attendees. According to Taylor, 118 people attended the wedding.
The city's Senior Sanitarian Andy Cambi said the wedding must be treated as a single outdoor gathering, meaning the cap was 100.
"It wasn't two separate events, it was one even therefore the gathering exceeded the limit," he said.
Candace Lyons, manager of the Proprietor's Lodge, said she went over the COVID-19 "guidelines" in great length with the bride and groom, noted all the safety standards and changed the original floor plan that she thought didn't allow for enough social distancing.
She said they signed a form agreeing to wear masks and distance, and that "when I saw someone not wearing a mask, I immediately approached them and made sure they were in compliance once I asked." Lyons also that she was made aware that members of the wedding party and the priest were tested for COVID-19 and none tested positive.
The venue gave everyone a mask and had signs posted on the front door and the door to the kitchen said Taylor, who added that "people wore masks, I'm not sure if everybody wore masks, but it wasn't like nobody wore masks."
Later on in the hearing, Campoli seemed to take issue with Lyon's terminology, saying "these are not guidelines, it's the law. It's the law that's come down from the governor in response to a health crisis in which people have died."
"It's not enough to just have some masks out there and hope that people pick them up and put them on in your premises and if there's any illegality on your premises, it's grounds for having your license revoked," said Campoli.
Members didn't go so far as to revoke the venue's liquor license, opting instead to suspend its license from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5.
Stockwell, who voted against the suspension but agreed the venue indeed violated the public health order, had instead suggested that members issue a 5-day suspension and hold it in abeyance, with the suspension kicking in only if the Proprietor's Lodge violates again.
Guiel Lampiasi said she had zoomed into a photo that was posted on the Proprietor's Lodge's own Instagram page and said she saw nobody wearing a mask. She said she was disappointed that the wedding occurred as it did.
"This is serious, this is people's lives. You're putting your staff in jeopardy not having the mask on," she said.
Several neighborhood residents, including Ward 7 City Councilor Anthony Maffuccio, blasted the Lodge for the wedding and urged the board to sanction the business.
Linda Pensivy of Waubeek Road said other businesses would also love to hold an event the size of the July 31 wedding, "but they don't. Why? Because they care about the health and well-being of our city and county. We need these numbers to drop and the only way to do that is following the governor's orders. Then we have people and business owners like Mr. Taylor who don't care. All they care about is the money coming in the door."
An altogether different assessment was offered by the mother of the groom whose July 31 wedding spurred hearing.
Kelly Krok of Pittsfield said there are longstanding issues between the Proprietor's Lodge and its neighbors, and being at the wedding itself observed six feet of distance between tables, and saw a few attendees take off their masks to get their picture taken.
"I think that they [The Proprietor's Lodge] did an amazing job," Krok said.
Amanda Burke can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @amandaburkec and 413-496-6296.