Balderdash barn

Workers in July disassemble the historic barn at Balderdash Cellars in Richmond, in order to restore the building. When the barn is remounted, Balderdash owners Christian and Donna Hanson plan to hold private events inside.

PITTSFIELD — A Berkshire Superior Court judge will hold a bench trial in January to resolve the lawsuit filed by four Richmond Shores residents seeking to shut down events with amplified music at the popular Balderdash Cellars winery on State Road in Richmond, just south of the Pittsfield city line.

At a pretrial conference Thursday, Judge Edward J. McDonough Jr. set the jury-waived trial date for Jan. 19, unless mediation or conciliation efforts produce a settlement between Berkshire Winery LLC, the owner of Balderdash, and the neighbors, whose suit also targets the town of Richmond and its Select Board members.

The neighbors contend that their peace and quiet is disturbed by outdoor gatherings with amplified music at the winery, which holds a special permit to host farm functions, including weddings and other private events. It also is open to the public year-round for wine tastings, musical entertainment and periodic visits by food trucks.

In its lawsuit, the neighborhood group sought an immediate injunction to shut down events with music. But, in September, Superior Court Judge Michael Callan declined to rule on that demand, pending a trial. So did McDonough on Thursday.

The owners, Christian and Donna Hanson, have installed acoustic “curtains” to prevent sound from reaching the Richmond Shores neighborhood. They also have limited the hours for music, no later than 8 p.m., and when a renovated, historic barn is remounted at the State Road (Route 41) location, they plan to hold private events inside.

At last week’s hearing, McDonough set Nov. 19 for attorneys to file their initial written discovery materials (research) on the case.

Balderdash is represented by Alexandra Glover, of Lazan Glover and Puciloski in Great Barrington, while the neighbors’ case is handled by James F. Martin, of Robinson Donovan, based in Springfield. Attorney Dennis LaRochelle, of Cain Hibbard in Pittsfield, represents the town of Richmond.

“Personally, I think this case would benefit from mediation,” Glover told the court after McDonough asked about the possibility of resolving the case ahead of a trial. “Possible,” the other attorneys suggested.

McDonough pointed out that conciliation services are available from retired Judge Daniel Ford.

The farm’s business plan includes up to 35 weddings a year, as well as the wine and food tastings with live music. The Balderdash property includes 2.5 acres at 79 State Road and nearly 21 acres at 81 State Road.

According to the Select Board’s revised special permit approved Feb. 24, exterior amplified music is limited to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Drums, bass guitars, electric guitars and horns are not allowed. Outdoor performances require noise-limiting “acoustical curtains” at the stage.

Once the historic barn is reinstalled, the revised permit allows interior amplified music, behind closed doors, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.

The Select Board recently approved a pouring permit, allowing Balderdash to serve spirits, in addition to wine and beer, at private events through the end of this year. A new permit will be required for next year.

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