Balderdash Cellars owners Christian and Donna Hanson (copy)

Balderdash Cellars owners Christian and Donna Hanson have been granted approval to pour spirits, as well as beer and wine, during special events. 

RICHMOND — Berkshire Winery LLC, better known as Balderdash Cellars, has gained its requested permits so it can pour spirits, as well as beer and wine, at its private events on State Road (Route 41) just south of Pittsfield.

The permit approved by the Select Board on Wednesday for the farm’s 81 State Road premises is good until the end of the year. The farm hosts 10 to 15 private events annually, said co-owner Christian Hanson.

Why it matters: The pouring permit is for distilled spirits not manufactured on its property — it's zoned residential-agricultural — but brought in from other Massachusetts distilleries and sold under the label Balderdash Cellars. Hanson’s attorney, Peter Puciloski, pointed out that the permit is not an all-alcohol license, but it allows the farm to pour alcohol on special occasions.

What’s at stake: Several neighbors who have sued the town and Balderdash, claiming that Hanson is running a bar, blasted the Select Board, arguing that there is no enforcement to prevent incidents involving inebriated patrons. Hanson emphasized his responsibility to ensure safety, that anyone who has had too much to drink will not be served, and that there have been no incidents. If drunk patrons leave the premises, Balderdash faces potential fines or suspension of its license.

The big picture: Since Balderdash occupies two parcels at 79 and 81 State Road, the company also gained a combined pouring permit for spirits, beer and wine at both. It also expires after New Year’s Eve.

What they’re saying:

• “There needs to be a plan when something goes wrong and it’s the Select Board’s responsibility,” according to Alison Cole, one of the four neighbors suing the town of Richmond, the Select Board individually and as a group, and Balderdash Cellars’ owners. “You issue all these permits without very much thought. It’s extremely irresponsible. How are you going to enforce any of the permits? The Select Board is changing the character of Richmond; Balderdash is a bar, and you’re helping them to do it.”

• “I see absolutely no reason why we should not approve this application,” said Selectman Roger Manzolini, “based on the track record of the applicant. I’ve talked to people who have attended events and got the sense that things are very well-managed, very well-controlled, and they [Balderdash] are sensitive to the needs and complaints of the neighborhood. We’ve seen evidence that backs that up. When you have responsible ownership that’s doing self-monitoring, we’ll rely on that.”

• “If we have experience with any violations, we’ll take that into account the next time he [Hanson] comes before us,” Select Board Chairman Neal Pilson pointed out. “There’s considerable support for Balderdash in the community.”

The bottom line: Despite protests by Cole and other parties to the lawsuit, the Select Board voted 3-0 to issue the permit applications requested by Hanson.

What’s next: A pretrial conference is scheduled at Berkshire Superior Court for Oct. 21 to set a trial date for the neighborhood group’s bid for an injunction to shut down events with music at Balderdash Cellars. Judge Michael Callan has indicated that the case could be decided by the end of this year.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.