Arthur 'A.J.' Thibert Jr., a member of the motorcycle club Reservoir Dogs, makes his case for a private club on River Street.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The prospect of the Reservoir Dogs motorcycle club opening a private hall on River Street drew concerns and support at a packed Planning Board meeting Monday.
The board delayed its decision on whether the club could open in the former Homestead bar at the request of Mayor Richard Alcombright.
"The Reservoir Dogs wishes to continue this tradition in North Adams and help those in our neighborhood as well," Thibert read.
He also said the club will only allow in its members and their invited guests. Club member Mike Bailey said it would be typically opened on Friday and Saturday.
The first concern of adequate parking was long forgotten by the time the heated discussion — that peaked when Monroe Street resident Michael Chalifoux was escorted from the City Hall Chambers by Lt. David Sacco after a tirade — ended.
Alcombright said although he has known Thibert for about 15 years, a petition opposing the club with 40 signatures and public safety concerns need to be addressed.
In a letter written to the mayor from Police Director Michael Cozzaglio, stated his concerns about the club's affiliation with Hells Angels, "1 percenters," or self-identified outlaws, and "many unanswered questions" that need to be addressed.
"I'm sure you're great people. I'm hoping you're great people," Alcombright said. "The problem is that there's angst in the community about this... More questions need to be answered, particularly as this sits right on the edge of, not in, a residential area."
Mike Bailey of the Reservoir Dogs said the group will help the community. Mayor Richard Alcombright wanted the Planning Board to revisit the hearing in two months for evaluation.
The letter requested a 60-day delay from the board to review the club, which eventually was the chosen route, but not after a hearing lasting over a half hour.
Bailey downplayed the Hells Angels' affiliation, saying they were just friends with the infamous biker group and that the Reservoir Dogs are just a motorcycle club, more like any men's club. (The club is however affiliated with two Hells Angels groups in the Connecticut Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs
.) He also referred to an American Motorcycle Association report that said 99 percent of bikers are law-biding citizens.
Bailey also referred to his work with the Greylock Riders Club, based out of Dalton, which includes adopting families for Thanksgiving and Christmas and delivering them fresh dinners and toys. Bailey said he plans on doing a similar program here.
"I don't know what everyone's major concern is. We're no different than you or you, the only difference between us [is] I ride a motorcycle and wear a vest. I have a job and I take care of my family," said Bailey, despite identifying himself as a 1 Percenter with a clean record.
The first opposition came from Chalifoux of Vietnam Veterans of America, who criticized the character of Thibert, calling him trouble, and the club's insignia — a vicious, red-eyed dog with a gun sticking outward on each side of its face.
"You want that sign up there right against your big duck, your big MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art)?" Chalifoux asked prior to being ruled out of order and escorted out.
Bill Cardimino, who owns property on Chase Street and Bracewell Avenue, opposed the private club because its "a tough spot" in the city already and was concerned about the club being open until 1 a.m. and alcohol consumption.
Property manager Michael Ciempa said there needs to be a presence — not as in a force but just occupancy — in that area instead of an empty building, and trusts the group in his building.
Bill Cardimino, who owns property on Chase and Bracewell avenue, opposed the private club.
Bruce Finn, the general manager of The Porches Inn, said the club would detract from the hotel's experience to its roughly 17,000 visitors per year — with its primary complaint already being noise.
"We do our best to alleviate these complaints... we're very hard pressed to understand how with this club coming in on an abutting property with motorcycle noise ...," Finn said.
Finn said other lots could be used farther from residential areas and hotels.
Resident Shawn Enos recalled his days as a kid on Chase Avenue when he drove by a week ago and said it "looked like trash."
"I think we would benefit as a community if there were people in that area, down there to keep the drugs and all that out of the area," Enos said. "I can guarantee when I was a kid it wasn't like that there."
Thibert said motorcycle clubs typically go to undesirable places with low rent and clean the area up.
Vice Chairman Paul Hopkins asked how they would help the area without contacting the police and Thibert said their presence would make "gangbangers" and drug dealers nervous.
"Your presence is all that's needed, it is what it is," Thibert said.
Hopkins was concerned that the neighborhood will feel the same way. Thibert agreed, but think they'll be less afraid when they get to know the Reservoir Dogs.
In addition, the required parking of 6.4 cars will be supplemented by allowed use from Goodyear and Sunshine Pool and Fence.
The Reservoir Dogs will return to the board in November.
In other business, the application of Clark and Mark Champagne to construct a single-family residence on 550 Daniels Road was delayed to next month for a site visit and review from the Department of Public Works.