PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An ongoing conflict between local lodging competitors that has been waged across multiple public bodies and authorities spilled over onto the jurisdiction of another on Monday, when a planned Hilton Garden Inn faced challenges over its pursuit of a liquor license.
Despite legal challenges to the new 95-room hotel, currently awaiting adjudication before Berkshire Superior Court and the Zoning Board of Appeals, South County hotelier Vijaysinh Mahida asked the city's Licensing Board to begin a two-step process for transferring over alcohol licensing formerly attached to the downtown Groove Lounge to serve the new Hilton Garden, to be located adjacent to Guido's Fresh Marketplace at 1032 South St.
The Licensing Board tabled the matter until the end of the year.
Mahida, who operates Great Barrington's 93-room Comfort Inn, faced opposition to his application by attorney John Gobel, legal counsel representing owners of the Pittsfield Comfort Inn and other properties. Gobel called proceeding with even preliminary liquor permitting for the hotel "premature," citing his client's traffic concerns in addition to other ongoing disputes over the project.
"There are currently two different tribunals considering this matter," Gobel told the Licensing Board. "If either of tribunals says no, then this building will not be on the site or will be substantially different than the ones that are in your plans today."
This includes a pending law suit over the hotel's driveway easement lodged against it by Eastern States Real Estate Management, an entity tied to Toole Lodging Group, whose own plan to erect a 92-room Courtyard Marriot was stalled when the state Department of Environmental Protection overturned a city-issued wetlands permit.
Meanwhile, the Desai family, who operate the also adjacent Comfort Inn, as well as a Ramada Suites on West Housatonic Street, have filed an appeal against the Hilton's building permit on the grounds that its driveway will create a dangerous and congested traffic situation.
"What we have is two competitors, one that owns the Comfort Inn, and one that owns the Hampton Inn, that don't want to see a Hilton inn be constructed," said attorney Tom Hamel, representing Mahida.
"Right now there's nothing going on the site, there's no resolution of a lawsuit about title to the site, and there's no final building permit," said Gobel, urging the Licensing Board to table the requested alterations to the all alcohol license.
"Mr. Gobel's client would like us to walk away and not build. Not going to happen," said Hamel, who maintained that the pending matters will not prevent the construction of the building as planned. "If they want to take us on, we're willing to have that battle."
City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan counseled the board that because the ZBA's hearing on this matter was coming up soon (Nov. 20), tabling the matter to wait for that board's opinion on the building permit was a practical move that would not adversely impact the applicant.
Hamel told the board he was "very confident" of a successful outcome for his client in the upcoming ZBA appeal, and has a Superior Court hearing in January on a motion for a summary judgement to have the suit by Eastern States dismissed
The Licensing Board voted to table decision on the license changes until their December meeting to take into account the ZBA outcome, at which time they will also entertain additional testimony about the application.