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Proprietor's Lodge Given Extended Outdoor Hours

By Jack Guerino
iBerkshires Staff
02:20AM / Friday, May 29, 2020
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Licensing Board extended the hours that the Proprietor's Lodge can serve alcohol on its patios to help accommodate social distancing while dining.
The board acted Wednesday on a request from the lodge's owner Eric Taylor, despite concern from the neighborhood, that would provide the restaurant a lifeline during the reopening process.
"This is a unique situation and Mr. Taylor is in a difficult situation much like other restaurants across the state," Chairman Thomas Campoli said. "The neighbors have a legitimate point about this but I believe there ought to be some accommodation to this restaurant and I think we have to view this through the prism of the pandemic."
Taylor said the COVID-19 pandemic has already dampened the summer season and essentially all weddings and events at the lodge have been canceled. They now hope to shift more toward the restaurant portion of the business and promote its outdoor space that will allow more seating while social distancing.  
"We feel it is the safest for our customers and for our employees," Taylor said. "We are looking to stay at the same capacity that we were in terms of people we can seat but just expand that footprint so we can social distance. We have to have the same numbers if I go in with half the seating or any less than what we have, it is going to be a real tough go."
The Proprietor's Lodge sits in a densely populated neighborhood and noise complaints and other disturbances brought forth by the neighborhood caused the board to set various limitations on the former Itam property.
Along with parking and entertainment limitations the lodge also had limited hours in which it could serve alcohol outdoors. In some instances, the serving of alcohol outdoors can only be done in conjunction with an event for up to three hours.
Currently, the lodge is only allowed to serve alcohol until 8 on Friday and Saturday and until 7 during the rest of the week. Taylor asked to shift these hours to 10 p.m. and apply them to all outdoor seating areas excluding a lower ceremony building.
Taylor said they are only looking to gain seating that will be lost with a new layout guided by social distancing standards put forth by the Berkshire County Board of Health. Tables must be 8 feet on the outside and 10 feet on the inside edge to edge.
"We are going to do that at the minimum if not even more because we have the space," he said. "It will be a little tough on the wait staff they are going to have to put their roller skates on."
He said they will limit the seating allowed on the patio currently utilized by the restaurant and with all of the patios online they would be able to safely spread out between 140 and 160 people.
The plan is to utilize the indoor seating only when necessary. People who are sensitive to the sun or who require air conditioning will be given priority indoors because they only plan to seat the interior area at 20 percent. 
Taylor said there will be no outdoor entertainment.
The board took calls from the public during the remotely held meeting. All callers were from the neighborhood and familiar voices to the board because they have spoken at past meetings in regard to Proprietor's Lodge.
All were in opposition.
Robert Pensivy said allowing this extension would open up a Pandora's box, reigniting all of the issues they came to the board to solve.
He read a list of issues that occurred at the lodge over the past few years including more noise complaints, fights, police intervention, an arrest, and an overdose.
"They are not the saints they paint themselves to be; they have not reached out to the neighbors to find a compromise," he said. "We have kids and I don't need to hear F-bombs while people are outside eating ... we want to be able to enjoy our neighborhoods and beaches this summer."
His wife, Linda, also called in and said she thought they had plenty of room inside of the banquet hall to accommodate social distancing. She asked that everything be kept inside.
"It is not fair to anyone else in the neighborhood to bring more noise outside and that is exactly what will happen if you allow this," she said. 
Neighbor Kirk Swiss and his wife, Virginia, also called in and echoed many of the same concerns distilling many of their worries to the phrase "more drinks more problems." 
Kirk said he had a concern about the Proprietor's Lodge utilizing their boat for deliveries and Taylor confirmed that they do deliver to other boats and homes on the water.
The board did not see this as an issue but a creative adaptation during these times.
Other abutters were also upset they were not notified about the meeting as they have been in the past.
Campoli said legally they do not have to notify abutters for said application and it was done in the past as a courtesy. He said with a new clerk this courtesy was overlooked but the agenda was still posted online.
There was also a concern among callers that this change would be permanent but Campoli said the board can change hours at any time and if there is a new complaint they will hear it.
After closing the floor the board deliberated and in general felt with the establishment acting purely as a restaurant there would be far less parking and noise issues. 
"I don't see the noise problem from diners that you would have from people attending a wedding or a function," board member Dennis Powell said. "They sit, have a couple of drinks, they get up, and they go home."
Board members Richard Stockwell and Dina Lampiasi added they have dined at the establishment before and thought other patrons were respectful and the noise levels were reasonable. 
Taylor originally asked to be able to serve until 10 every night but the board modified this and will allow them to serve until 9 Sunday through Wednesday and until 10 Thursday through Saturday. 
"I know I am not alone when I say I am fearful of what our local restaurants are going to look like in several months," Lampiasi said. "I think this is a time where we both have to embrace compromise and be creative."
The board will revisit the application in September.

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