PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police are asking the Licensing Board to shut down Lach's Lounge.
Lach's Lounge is currently shut down until mid-November when it will have a hearing before the Licensing Board after a police investigation into a shooting and alleged drug dealing. This is the latest pile onto a heaping history of incidents at the Fenn Street bar.
The hearing will specifically regarding two alleged recent incidents. The first occurred at approximately 1 in the morning on Sunday, Aug. 19. Officer David Kirchner responded to a call from bar manager Ishmael Lytle asking for an officer to respond to the area to deter any disturbances during closing time.
Kirchner reports that he then heard five or six gunshots and that several individuals reported being shot at, but no one was wounded. According to police, witnesses said there was a physical altercation in the parking lot and a man pulled out a firearm and began shooting.
Police say video evidence confirmed those involved in the shooting were inside the bar prior to the incident. A report filed with the Licensing Board by police also states that a man was selling crack cocaine to bar patrons in a fenced-in location in the rear of the bar that evening as well.
The report raises a number of issues for bar management. Police say members of a motorcycle club were providing security at the front door and that one member appeared to be carrying a gun. The report said the despite the bar's owner saying multiple times that a metal detector wand would be used, several customers were not wanded before entering.
Police also say members of the "security force" were observed drinking alcoholic beverages while providing the security and consuming alcohol outside of the bar. Police say several customers were allowed to enter without showing identification.
The report further goes on to say that video evidence shows people drinking, smoking marijuana, and one man selling crack cocaine in a fenced-in area behind the bar. That area is not covered by the establishment's liquor license.
A second police report alleges a fight occurred in the bar and, again, those providing security are accused of carrying weapons.
Police say on Sept. 30, 2018, at 12:37 a.m., multiple police patrols responded to a fight inside the bar. Upon arrival, officers saw a number of people in the parking lot and others returning to their vehicles to leave. Police say many of the patrons "were uncooperative but a few did confirm a fight inside the bar."
Inside, the bar was empty except for employees cleaning up. Those providing security reported that a brief fight broke out between two men and members of security broke it up.
Police were then given a tip that one of the security members fired a gun inside the establishment but there was no evidence to support it. Police say one individual who provides security told officers that he is properly licensed and carries it when he works security. But he said he did not shoot inside the bar and officers found no evidence of a gunfire.
Another member of the security team was described to officers as having a gun but he denied it and a pat-down turned up negative for a weapon.
Owner Michael Kruger was present at the time of each of those two incidents.
Police have asked for a revocation of the license but neither Kruger nor an attorney representing the establishment attended Monday's hearing -- a move that irked the Licensing Board, as Chairman Carmen Massimiano called it "a cavalier move." Police and City Solicitor Richard Dohoney were prepared and urged the Licensing Board to move forward anyway.
"I think he's thumbing his nose at this board and the whole city apparatus that goes into enforcing and providing that kind of stability," Massimiano said.
"I find it shocking that a person can have a business that depends on the city for its existence and blows off the meeting when they are going to talk about what is going on in the place."
Member Thomas Campoli added, "the attitude of Mr. Kruger is beyond cavalier" adding that there was no problem with the notification regarding the hearing. Lytle said Kruger had a previously scheduled business trip this week and that was why he was unable to attend.
However, despite the irritation felt by board members, the board gave Lytle an option -- move forward with the hearing or suspend the license until the Nov. 19 meeting and hold the hearing then. Lytle opted for the latter.
The complaints pile on to a lengthy history of license violations for Lach's Lounge and came in the midst of a series of calls for services to the location.
Lach's found itself answering to the Licensing Board for the first time in fall 2015 after a man had been shot a few blocks away after drinking and getting into an argument at the bar.
Then, former co-owner Arthur Beattie Jr. told the board it had purchased metal detectors and would wand people entering. The man who did the shooting was accused of having a gun inside Lach's Lounge.
Just a few months later, James Dominguez was shot and killed in the parking lot after allegedly drinking in the establishment. Lach's was slapped with a seven-day suspension for that case.
On Sept. 10, 2017, a 32-year-old resident was shot in the parking lot.
Lytle was then placed in charge of the bar as Beattie stepped aside from managing it for health reasons. Lytle had promised to work closely with officers and clean up the establishment's track record.
In some ways, Lytle has been more cooperative with police than others in the past but the instances of disturbances at the bar continued to pile up. And police say at the Aug. 19 incident, Kruger hadn't been easily accessible for police to get copies of video from the evening.
"Investigators obtained new information regarding the incident and had the need to obtain additional video footage from Lach's Lounge. Telephone calls were made and messages were left to owner Michael Kruger's cell phone requesting assistance. Mr. Kruger did not contact investigators until several days later," police wrote.
In 2018, police reported six different incidents, most in August. On April 22, officers responded to multiple disturbances outside of the bar around closing time; on April 29, there was a similar call for disturbances both inside and outside of the bar; on Aug. 16, there was a loud music complaint; on Aug. 17, there was a disturbance in the parking lot; on Aug. 19, there was a shooting incident and an arrest made for firearm violations; and on Aug. 21, there was another disturbance in the parking lot.
"Repeated incidents at Lach's Lounge keep officers from performing other duties including responding to calls for service elsewhere in the city. Most importantly, the ongoing and continuing disturbances, arguments, and shootings pose a significant threat of violence and bodily harm to members of the community," police wrote to the Licensing Board.
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