Pittsfield Nightclub License Suspended After Shooting

By Joe DurwiniBerkshires Staff
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The Licensing Board on Monday slammed Chameleon's Nightclub with a 21-day suspension.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Licensing Board on Monday ordered Chameleon's Nightclub closed for at least three weeks, amid revelations following a multiple shooting on its premises earlier this month.

Proprietor Melissa Sweener called the board's measures "a bit extreme," but was castigated by a visibly enraged acting Chairman Robert Quattrochi. 

"You're not a fit person to run that bar as far as I'm concerned," Quattrochi told Sweener at a show-cause hearing on Monday that detailed infractions discovered in the wake of an April 5 incident in which two persons were injured in a shooting in the parking lot shortly around its 2 a.m. closing time.

Police officers outlined a list of complaints they had with the bar's security in the process of investigating the still unsolved shooting incident; these included alleged underage drinking, inadequate ID verification, patrons leaving the club with alcohol, and insufficient surveillance camera coverage. Instances of employees drinking or using marijuana in the bar while at work were also alleged in the department's report.

Lt. Michael Grady depicted the establishment as being frequented extensively by known gang members and drug dealers.

"This is the kind of clientele coming in and out of this bar," Grady told the board.

Board members expressed stern dissatisfaction with "inadequate answers" to many of their questions, particularly inquiries as to why no staff seemed to be aware of the shooting until police showed up to investigate based on reports from patrons.

"You don't seem to have a handle on much of anything," said Quattrochi.

According to the police report, a doorman outside believed the sound he heard on the other side of the parking lot to be someone setting off fireworks, at which time he "ducked inside" the building.

"If he thought it was fireworks, why did he duck inside the bar?" asked board member Richard Stockwell. "My assumption is that he knew it was gunfire and he did nothing about it."

Sweener said she had managed the East Street establishment for three years with only one previous occasion before the board for disciplinary action.

A suspension of this length would be a massive, perhaps even fatal blow to the enterprise, she said.

Chameleon's, which opened in early 2011, already faced financial woes prior to the shooting incident. Served with an eviction notice in March by the property's landlord, the club also lost its liability insurance for a time, though Sweener said these issues have been resolved.

Stockwell suggested a 21-day suspension after which the licensee will return to the board at its May 19 meeting to present its efforts to address these issues and discuss possible changes to the hours of operation.

"This is basically the last shot for you," said board member Thomas Campoli.  "Something's got to change, and it's got to happen now."

Tags: alcohol license,   license board,   license suspension,   nightclub,   

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