Attorney Darren Lee represents the Rusty Anchor and said the processes of memberships has been made cleaner to limit confusion over whether the place is public or not.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Traffic, noise, undesirable citizens infiltrating the area. That is what concerns the residents at the Pines when it comes to the Rusty Anchor Marina and Pub Club on Pontoosuc Lake.
Scott Graves purchased the former YMCA boat house and turned it into a private club. He is trying to recruit members, provide more things to do, and grow the business.
But when he asked for an entertainment license and permission to use have Keno, residents from the Pines condominium came out in opposition, fearing the growth of the Rusty Anchor will ruin the pristine environment they live in.
"It would just take away our preciousness of this place," said Sylvia Cohen
The Rusty Anchor was approved for three licenses on Monday: a reclassification of its license to one for a club, an entertainment license for Fridays and Saturday from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m., and approval to have Keno in the club. Each of those requests faced opposition from a handful of residents from the Pines.
The club has had a confusing few months of operations this year that included the revocation of all of its licenses, so the debate lasted nearly an hour.
Attorney Darren Lee, representing the club, told the Licensing Board that the city had issued it the wrong license. It had applied for a club license and instead received the typical alcohol on premises license. Lee said that was an error of the city's and requires a reclassification and sign off from the state.
But whether it is club or not hasn't been clear either. Several board members cited advertising and signage that suggested otherwise. This year the club was offering one-day memberships for just $5 and signage had given the impression that the establishment was open to the public.
"We're a club because only people who can enter are members of our club. We are not open to the public," Lee clarified.
But the company has been trying to recruit members and Graves wants a way to bring people in to try it out, which was the concept behind the one-day passes. Lee said the organization has further limited those one-day passes so that someone can only do that once in a year and have a tighter rein over who comes into the club than before.
"We don't want to be confused with being open to the public. We don't allow you to view it every day," Lee said.
Grave said, "I need a little bit of wiggle room somewhere," to be able to get members.
Graves said there are a number of membership options for those who want to join. He was worried that people would be scared off, thinking they weren't welcome to join. There is a menu of member options, he said, from as low as $30 to as much as $3,000, all with different perks.
With a club, outside liquor signs are not allowed and Lee said the city had cited one there, and that has since been removed to comply with the law. Additionally, there is a welcome sign out front, which board member Diane Pero said seemed to give the impression it was open to the public.
Earlier this year, the club applied for and received approval for a half dozen or so one-day event licenses. The plan was to have a musical, one man with a guitar, play on the deck on Saturday afternoons. But after the second one, the city issued a cease and desist order, halting operations. The Fire Department had raised concerns with the occupancy.
"It is a big deck so there was a bit of a question," Lee said.
Ultimately, through lengthy conversations, the two side came together with a capacity of 49 people in total. Now, the club wants to get an annual license to have music back.
"We are not having bands on the deck. We aren't interested in that kind of club," Graves said.
Pines resident Daniel O'Connell said the noise will bring down the values of the condominiums. He said the area is nice and quiet now and the music will carry over the water.
"The sound is going to bring our property values down," O'Connell said.
Cohen said amplification of the instruments will add to noise levels. Further, she said there will be increased traffic for the club, and she is also fear that such activity will bring "unsavory people" to the area.
Licensing Board member Richard Stockwell said that jet skis and motor boats create even more noise. He said recreational use of the lake is something the county should encourage.
"Recreation is part of the pull to the Berkshires. This is what we are trying to do," Stockwell said.
Cohen said she had previously looked into an effort to ban jet skis from the lake too because of the noise. But Chairman Carmen Massimiano said, "we do really need to give it a shot and see if he can be successful."
The final approval was for Keno. Graves had applied to the state lottery to get a machine but the Licensing Board wrote a letter saying there was a problem with its license. Lee said the problem was that the license issued was the wrong one and that there are no infractions which would cause a denial of the lottery. The board agreed to pen a letter saying such to the lottery now that the proper license was approved.
O'Connell said Keno is just another step to "be more public than it is" and fears the establishment is on its way to become a regular bar and not a private club.
"To me, it has gotten way out of hand," O'Connell said.
All of that led resident Dave Intelisano to wonder "why is everything a hassle in Pittsfield?" He praised Graves efforts to restore the aging boat house and turn it into a business.
"Every time somebody tries to do something, somebody has to belly ache," Intelisano said.
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