The Lantern one step closer to reopening after liquor license transfer

Downtown Pittsfield eatery The Lantern is one step closer to reopening under new ownership. The city's Licensing Board has approved the transfer of the business' liquor license to its prospective new owner, Bjorn Somlo, a Lenox restaurant owner and operator of North Street Eats LLC.

PITTSFIELD — The city's Licensing Board has approved the transfer of a seven-day all-alcohol license to the prospective new owner of The Lantern Bar & Grill — the next step in an effort to revive the iconic eatery.

The board unanimously approved the license transfer on Monday from Puritan Restaurant Inc., which currently owns The Lantern, to North Street Eats LLC.

Bjorn Somlo, who owns the American eatery Nudel Restaurant in Lenox, is the manager of that LLC, according to papers filed with the secretary of state's office.

Somlo said he plans to the keep the establishment's name and well-known decor — notably the bar and neon sign.

The menu?

That will change.

Somlo said he plans to offer creative American cuisine in the form of small plates, along with spirits, cocktails and craft beer.

Formerly a customer of The Lantern, Somlo said he'd like to keep its personality alive while joining the community of food and drink establishments at that end of North Street.

He plans to reopen the business this year, ideally, starting with evening hours, with the potential for lunch.

Richard Stockwell, a member of the Licensing Board, asked Somlo about his plans to be involved in The Lantern's operations.

"I'm not looking to open something and turn my back," Somlo told the board.

At the board's suggestion, Somlo requested that his license hours be from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., which would enable him to offer alcohol during lunch and later in the evening.

He said he doesn't intend to focus on alcohol offerings that are consumed quickly, like shots.

"We want to be a part of Pittsfield," Somlo said. "We'd just like to relight The Lantern."

Stockwell said he knows Somlo's quality reputation as a chef.

"I think that Pittsfield is very fortunate, and very lucky," he said of Somlo's decision to re-open The Lantern.

Somlo is in the process of purchasing the business.

The board's decision must be approved by the state's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

A well-known downtown establishment, The Lantern Bar & Grill officially closed in late August 2017.

The restaurant's origins go back about 100 years, when Gus Papas and his business partner, William Yerazunis, operated a lunch cart on Summer Street in Pittsfield.

The two men later founded a restaurant on the corner of North and Linden streets known as "The Puritan."

It became The Lantern after William G. Papas bought out Yerazunis in September 1952.

Mark Papas, the owner of The Lantern at the time of the closing and son of William G. Papas, announced the upcoming closure in mid-August 2017.

He did not say why the restaurant was closing.

The Eagle later learned that a deep fryer in a recently installed cooking system was not adequately covered by the device's fire suppression system, which put it out of compliance with the city's fire regulations, Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski previously told The Eagle.