Licensing Board Sends Message To Pittsfield Bars

By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent
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Johnny's Beach Club was handed a seven-day license suspension after a melee last month.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In a move said to serve as a warning to all local taverns, the city's Licensing Board on Friday issued stern penalties on a bar whose patrons were involved in an disturbance on Wahconah Street earlier this month.

The board ordered a seven-day license suspension for Johnny's Beach Club, to be followed by a mandatory midnight closing time for at least the next two months.

"I hope this gives some warning to other establishments in the city," said board member Richard Stockwell. "We'll just start cutting down hours if necessary."

The board deliberated over the terms of disciplinary action during Friday's brief open executive session, following testimony from more than a half dozen Pittsfield police offers at a show cause hearing on Monday. Police say a large crowd outside the bar following an altercation on March 15 devolved into a riot-like situation, in which multiple officers were mildly injured and seven arrests were made.

Board member Dana Doyle noted that Johnny's, formerly operated as Pepe's under the same owner, has already been issued at least three suspensions of three days each for major incidents since 2005.

"Three days obviously didn't get the job done," said acting Chairman Robert Quattrochi.

Opting for a seven-day suspension of the license, the board then debated whether or not to make the reduction in hours for a 60 or 90-day period.

"I would think that 60 would be more appropriate," said Stockwell, noting that this is a progression from a previous 30-day reduction on the bar's entertainment license over a past offense.

Owner John Giardina previously had stated that about 70 percent of the bar's business occurs after midnight, but Pittsfield Police also say this is when 75 percent of problems occur there.

"I know that this poses a hardship, but unfortunately that's the business that you're dealing with," Quattrochi told Giardina, who attended but was not permitted to speak at Friday's session. 

Quattrochi said after the 60 days are up, he can petition the board to return to normal business hours, but said there is "no guarantee it won't be extended" if they do not feel problems have been adequately addressed.

The board further warned that being brought before the board for another infraction of this magnitude in the future could result in "a situation similar to that with Herman Alexander's" where the board may demand the sale of the license to a new establishment.

Tags: alcohol license,   bars, taverns,   license suspension,   

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