The former Pepe's and Johnny's Beach Club has been sold to Suzanne Chung.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The former Johnny's Beach Club has been sold and will become a Mexican restaurant.
Attorney Jeff Lynch reported to the Licensing Board on Monday that Wahconah Street LLC. has purchased the bar and will turn it into a restaurant.
The secretary of state's office shows Suzanne Chung, a partner with numerous restaurants including Jae's Bistro, as one of the signatories as well as Oscar Amaya.
"They have a long-term plan of renovation to that building and re-opening that space as a restaurant," Lynch said.
Lynch expects renovation to last nine to 10 months. Wahconah Street LLC has also purchased adjacent residential properties with the intent to renovate those. Those are one- or two-family homes and the company has reached a lease-to-own deal for them.
According to land records, John Giardina sold the property on Feb. 13 to Wahconah Street LLC for $174,000.
Johnny's Beach Club has had a trying history recently when it comes to the Licensing Board. It has faced multiple sanctions over the years for various incidents and Giardina has been attempting to sell the bar for a number of years.
Chung, meanwhile, has been making multiple investments in the city of Pittsfield. She also owns 7 Winter Grill and fairly recently opened Vong's, a Thai restaurant located at the end of the same block as Johnny's Beach Club.
7 Winter Grill is set to become Jae's Asian Bistro, with the Chungs planning to move the Lenox restaurant there. But the owners are facing yet another challenge when it comes to getting a certificate of occupancy.
The restaurant has been closed for two years now and building inspectors had previously forced the construction of an elevator before it could reopen. That has been completed but Lynch says now the building inspector is demanding a new handicapped bathroom be installed on the second floor and there is a question about whether or not a performance stage on the second floor also needs to be handicapped accessible.
"The lift we have been talking about for some time has been signed off on," Lynch said.
But "we will not be able to get the certificate of occupancy to occupy either floor until the bathroom is built and the stage issue is addressed," he said.
The Winter Street restaurant had been owned and operated as Mazzeo's Ristorante for many years until that restaurant moved to South Street. The Chungs purchased the building nearly four years and opened the steakhouse, closing for renovations a couple years later. They had hoped to move Jae's Bistro from Lenox to the location last fall but still needs that certificate of occupancy.
"They've given their notice in Lenox, they are ready to open. We feel a little bit stuck right now," Lynch said.
Lynch said an application has been made to install the bathroom, which will only take a few weeks after the permit is issued, but he and his client is waiting on word about the stage, which could be more costly and time-consuming if it is determined a ramp is needed.
Lynch says the first floor, where the restaurant will be, is ready to go and the further delays are hurting his client's income. He said customers in Lenox are now not sure if he is still open.
"My client is ready to move and open up this restaurant," he said. "It is not helping my client to not be able to open in Pittsfield."
The Licensing Board has been keeping an eye on the process. The liquor license is currently inactive and the board is charged with trying to ensure there are no "pocket licenses." The city is limited to the number of all-alcohol liquor licenses it can issue to restaurants and the board wants to make sure those are being used.
"I just hope I am not sitting here in June 2017 and it is still not opening. It will be close to a year and there is a lot of pressure on us about pocket licenses," said Licensing Board member Richard Stockwell.
Lynch has been before the board repeatedly over the years providing updates, which member Thomas Campoli appreciates.
"My take on this is your client has been working on this, you have been keeping us apprised of what is going on, and that's a great thing," Campoli said.
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