NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Big Shirl's Kitchen was given the go-ahead to allow its customers to bring in their own beer and wine but the City Council will be looking at ways to regulate the practice.
The council on Tuesday referred a request to create an ordinance related to customers bringing their own beer or wine to dining establishments to the General Government Committee. The issue was brought to the council by Mayor Richard Alcombright on behalf of big Shirl's owners Renee and Mark Lapier.
The Lapiers have recently extended their hours to offer dinner and want to allow BYOB, or "bring your own bottle." The city solicitor said the practice is legal and the License Commission said it does not fall under its purview. The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission limits BYOB to eating establishments that do not have alcohol licenses.
Renee and Mark Lapier's plan to let customers bring their own bottles (of beer or wine) during dinner service; their restaurant won the qualified endorsement of the City Council.
The Lapiers, however, said they didn't want to move forward without ensuring the city was supportive.
"I would like to see this go to committee and move along as fast as possible," said the mayor. "They don't want to do it without the blessing of the city in some form. ... They're looking for guidance here."
Alcombright said he'd looked into other municipalities that had put conditions on brown bag or BYOB ordinances.
Councilor David Lamarre, former chairman of the License Commission, raised the question of who would be responsible and why the Lapiers didn't go through the more formal licensing process.
"You're moving way too quickly on this ... there will be a whole lot more to this issue than meets the eye," he said, adding a license should not be hard to get. "Historically, there have been very few problems with issuing a license to a requester."
Mark Lapier said his 40-seat restaurant was too small for the coolers necessary to stock beer and wine and that he didn't want to be a bar.
"I'm asking for convenience for my customers for 12 hours," he said. "The more we do in business is more taxes for our city. ... We have a high-end clientele; nobody's going to throw down a 30-pack."
Renee Lapier said they would be willing to pay a fee for a permit or registration and that the waitresses at Big Shirl's all had TIPS, Training for Intervention Procedures.
President Ronald Boucher said Pittsfield has no ordinance and has had no issues with BYOB.
"I don't have a problem with it," he said. "We should maybe put some language in place to protect ourselves down the road in case other venues want to do it."
The new Desperados on Eagle Street in North Adams marked its official opening on Wednesday morning with a ribbon cutting. Among those present were Rep. Daniel E. Bosley and Jay Green, administrative officer for the city.
The restaurant's been open a couple weeks now and marks a return to the city after closing several years ago. Owner David Atwell, who also operates a Desperados in Williamstown, said he was excited about the opening and is glad to be back in North Adams. He said Legacy Banks is the reason it all happened; he's always loved the building at 23 Eagle St. and wanted to be an owner of his location time and not a renter.
There's hope that Desperados will do what it's predecessors have not — succeed, of course, but also draw foot traffic down Eagle Street to help other businesses.
David Atwell, second from right, is getting some help from current and former employees to get 23 Eagle St. ready for the new Desperado's restaurant.
David Atwell vowed to return to North Adams when his restaurant Desperado's closed on Ashland Street. He'd hoped to do it within the year but it ended up taking five.
The Mexican restaurant will reopen in the city this fall in the former The Alley location at 23 Eagle St. It's a spot Atwell's been eyeing for the past five years; he finally got it on Wednesday, when he closed with Legacy Bank to purchase the 4,200-square-foot property and its contents for $156,000.
"We wanted this building for five years," he said on Thursday, standing in the minor chaos of a restaurant in transformation. "It's small, easy to maintain and homey."
Atwell's Desperado's Fresh Mexican Grille in the Colonial Shopping Center in Williamstown has been operating for about 17 years. A big chunk of its clientele is from North Adams, which made him eager to return — but not unless he could own his location. His first venture here closed largely because of rental costs. "I wanted to be in control of my own building, my own costs," he said.
The Alley, which replaced a string of cafes before it, closed abruptly in January after father and son owners Jack and Keith Nogueira couldn't keep the bistro going. The building and its contents were to be sold off at auction in late June but Legacy Banks put in the only bid at $155,000 and the contents, which were to be auctioned seperately, were not offered.
Atwell, one of those attending the auction, said Legacy was aware he was interested in the property. He worked with the bank, which holds the mortgage, and particularly noted commercial relationship officer John Masten for making the process easy.
The dark colors and nightclub atmosphere will be completely erased. "We're going to paint the walls with warm Southwestern colors my wife [Deanna] and her sister picked out," said Atwell. The tables will be replaced with upholstered booths and some work will be done in the kitchen and second floor, where The Alley hosted musical acts.
Cleaning, patching under way.
Atwell is looking into an entertainment license but sees the second floor being used for private parties, benefits and teen dances. The long-term plan is to turn it into living loft space.
Employees from the Williamstown restaurant will work at both locations as necessary and former employees are expected to fill out his team.
The menu will be the same at both locations but the North Adams eatery will be open for lunch six days a week (the Williamstown eatery opens for lunch Thursday to Saturday.) Hours will be 11 to 10 Monday through Thursday and 11 to 11 Friday and Saturday. Atwell was approved by the Planning Board and received an all-alcoholic license to midnight from the Licensing Commission.
"We've set a goal of Nov. 1 to open," he said. "That will keep us working."
Planners said they can't find anything wrong with Tunnel City Auto.
The Planning Board on Monday accepted with no discussion a report by the Compliance Committee that found no issues with Tunnel City Auto.
Abuttor Susan Lefaver of 690 State Road and other neighbors have complained consistently about the automotive repair shop for some years, saying owner Mark J. Laveriere has failed to attain or maintain a number of conditions placed on the property.
Lefaver finally brought her complaints to the City Council last month, armed with photos, and had the matter referred back to the Planning Board.
Last month, Building Inspector William Meranti said he had been called to the property a number of times but other than mild violations - such as a car left for pickup past working hours - nothing was out of order. Some of the complaints of the shop being open past business hours seemed to center on the owner doing work on his own car, which was allowable, he said.
The Compliance Committee did a site check on Sept. 10 and found the garage substantially in compliance with the 30 conditions set by the board in 2002. The committee also found no issues with visibility on exiting Chantilly Avenue, another issue the neighbors have raised.
In other business during the brief meeting, the board:
Continued a hearing on the application of Thomas Snow, perating as Snoford LLC, to reopon the former Crystal Hard Hat at 176 Union St. as a tavern until Snow appears before the Licensing Committee.
Signed off on the aesthetics of a new privacy fence with black slats to replace a decripit stockade fence at Price Chopper on State Road; new signage for Mount Williams Greenhouse and the reopening of The Alley at 23 Eagle St. under David Atwell on condition that a signage plan be submitted.
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.