The Board of Selectmen set conditions on the entertainment permit for the Garden Grill and Tavern at the Berkshire Mall because of an incident last year.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Last year a DJ threw smoke across the dance floor of the Garden Grill and Tavern at the Berkshire Mall that set off the fire alarms.
The restaurant did not evacuate, knowing there was no imminent danger. But that left firefighters having to fight through a crowd to turn off the alarms.
"The music was so loud you couldn't hear it going off," said Fire Chief Charlie Durfee. "We had to fight through the crowd to get to the back panel."
When the manager returned to the Board of Selectmen last Wednesday for another live entertainment license, the Selectmen said the company needs to pay a police officer to be on hand.
"We're not messing around," said Chairman John Goerlach, who cited the recent closure of a mall business as an example of the town requiring "good business practices."
Garden Grill Manager Armanda Charis, however, says having an officer on hand during the entertainment discourages people from attending and, having to pay the officer, digs into the potential profit he hopes to get with live entertainment. He said when he didn't evacuate, he was told by a responding police officer that he didn't have to.
"I don't know what it is but people don't feel comfortable [with an officer on hand]," Charis said, adding that he has had police there before and attendance decreased dramatically. "I don't see the need to have a police officer there."
If people are leaving when they see police, then they are not the audience the town wants, Goerlach responded.
"I'm not in favor of having a band at the mall. It is more of a family environment," Goerlach said. "To me it is more of a family place to go and have dinner."
Charis said his business is struggling and he wants to have entertainment on Saturday nights to help drive sales. The restaurant wants to have DJs or live music from 10 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. The Selectmen approved it but reduced the hours to 12:30 a.m. and required the restaurant to hire an officer for that time.
"The reason I want to do this is that it would really help the business," Charis said.
The Police Department recommended two officers be on hand during that time — at the company's expense — but the Selectmen reduced that to one. Selectman Robert Ericson agreed that the cost of two officers would "kill the economic benefit."
Berkshire Mall General Manager Joseph Scelsi said he doesn't have a problem with live entertainment but that the focus should be on selling food and not alcohol.
While the Selectmen took the advice of the Police and Fire Departments, they weren't going to deny the permit.
"It is a commercial atmosphere. I'd like to let him give it a shot and try to keep his door open at the mall," said Selectman Henry Sayers, adding that if "things go well" they can come back for changes to the permit.
Bradley Farm also received an entertainment permit.
"We propose to have a series of six to eight, acoustic, family friendly, non-alcohol concerts," Bradley Farm co-owner Michael McManmon said.
The farm will use the rear of the property and prop a small stage up for performers. Attendees will be able to sit in lawn chairs and another local farm will be grilling food for sale. McManmon said there is parking for about 150 cars, which is more than expected to need.
In other business, the Board of Selectmen will be setting up an informational meeting in conjunction with the Mount Greylock Regional School Building Committee. The purpose of that meeting will be for residents to hear about the upcoming request for a feasibility study to build new or renovate the high school.
"We need to start talking about what a feasibility study entails," said Mark Sheik, a building committee member.
The meeting is likely to be held in the middle of March at the elementary school.
Also on Wednesday, the town approved the long-awaited Chapter 90 expenditure to rebuild the culvert on Putnam Road. The project was slated to be done last year but the state required an addition engineering study. That Chapter 85 study couldn't be done by the engineers who already designed the project so the town is now using $47,000 for that study.
A total of $67,000 is expected just for the engineering of the culvert while the replacement is estimated at $150,000. The Chapter 90 funds are state funds allocated to the towns. While the costs don't directly come from Lanesborough property tax bills, the use of those additional funds takes away from other potential road projects.