PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The chef and owner of Nudel, in Lenox, is looking to reopen The Lantern.
The Licensing Board gave its approval for Bjorn Somlo to take over the tavern's liquor license. The property is being bought by Mill Town Capital, as 449 North Street RE LLC.
"We're looking to take The Lantern ... and reopen in 2018, offering a mixture of creative small plates, sippable liqueurs, craft cocktails, and craft drafts," Somlo said.
The Lantern has been a longtime staple at the intersection of North and Linden streets for a century. But last year, owner Mark Papas closed it after the Fire Department took issue with a new deep frier that was not covered by the fire suppression system. Papas was asked to revamp the sprinkler system to comply with fire codes.
Somlo said he plans to retain much of the current aesthetics of the building while revamping the menu and offerings. At first, he isn't planning on serving lunch, only opening for small plate dinners. The alcohol beverages served are "designed to be sipped" and patrons would only have few, rather than many, he said.
"The food is going to be chef-driven and the people who are serving are doing the same thing. We want to put out something with character," Somlo said.
The restaurant's character is eyed to fit with Methuselah, Mission, and Dottie's, all of which have opened on that part of North Street in recent years. That portion of North Street was the last to receive an upgrade during the decadelong streetscape project.
Last year, Framework, a co-working space, opened less than a block away. That, too, is headed by Mill Town Capital.
"We're hoping to join those people at that end of North Street," Samlo said. "I've been trying to make something happen in Pittsfield for over 15 years."
The Licensing Board said Somlo's reputation as a businessman and a chef speaks for itself.
"I think it is exciting for the city of Pittsfield to have somebody of your caliber coming to Pittsfield," said Chairman Thomas Campoli.
Member Richard Stockwell said, "Pittsfield is very fortunate and very lucky that he is investing in North Street."
In other business, the Licensing Board gave its OK for Chili's to open in the former Old Country Buffet location. The chain restaurant is looking to move into the Berkshire Crossing Shopping Plaza later this year.
"We would like to open this year but it depends on the build-out, construction, and negotiations with the landlord," said Attorney Andrew Upton, representing the restaurant.
Chili's is a southwestern, family restaurant. There are more than 30 in Massachusetts and more than 500 across the country, according to Upton.
Upton said the company plans to hire as many as 80 workers to operate the restaurant.
The Licensing Board also approved the expansion of Otto's restaurant despite neighbor Kermit Goodman's concerns about security and truck traffic. Goodman owns property on First Street and the rights to easements onto Wendell Avenue Extension. He said often delivery trucks are blocking his access to the street and he fears the license will only increase traffic.
Further, he recalled a stabbing that happened at a former bar in the area and has concerns the Otto's serving alcohol at night without proper security could lead to trouble.
"These events tend to leave a very long memory and very unpleasant one," Goodman said.
Attorney Thomas Hamel said Otto's Breakfast & Deli will be more along the lines of Patrick's Restaurant, which is based more on the food than the bar service.
The Licensing Board felt that truck traffic is out of its authority and that the restaurant does not have a track record of having trouble with security.
"If the delivery trucks are occurring now, I don't see that much of a difference," said member Dennis Powell.
Hamel said deliveries are all in compliance with city ordinances and doesn't believe it would be appropriate for a city board to enact stricter restrictions on where and when the restaurant can receive deliveries than any other license holder in the city.
"I don't think this board has the right, in fact, I am almost positive we don't have the right, to tell vendors they can't come to different places and deliver products," Stockwell said.
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