PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A miscommunication between a local restaurant owner and the city almost led to a larger problem.
There were two issues, late payment for liquor license fees and a delinquent building inspection.
At Thursday's Licensing Board meeting, the owner of Trattoria Rustica Davide Manzo was granted a temporary 30-day building inspection certificate by Building Commissioner Jeffrey Clemons. Manzo's eatery is due for an inspection of the sprinkler system and he hasn't been able to get hold of building owners Cavalier Management on the matter.
At the time of the meeting, Ranzo had already paid his licensing fees and a receipt for the transaction was provided in the agenda packet.
Police Capt. Thomas Grady was notified by the Licensing Board clerk that Trattoria Rustica did not pay the license fees due Jan 1. On Jan. 9, Lt. Jeffrey Bradford went into the restaurant while on patrol after seeing it was open. Bradford introduced himself and notified Manzo that he was going to have notified Grady and the Licensing Board that there were a few patrons drinking wine in the establishment.
Chairman Thomas Campoli explained that serving alcohol without a license is a situation that is covered by criminal law in Massachusetts and punishable by fines no less than $100 and no more than $1,000 or by prison for no more than a year.
"What I'm saying is, that's a criminal violation and frankly, we don't even have any authority to do anything pro or con for you in this particular situation," he said. "We are talking to you because we understand that you have an iconic restaurant in the city that is right in the heart of the city and it would be a shame if that restaurant was no longer, but what will happen if you continue to attempt to serve alcohol without a license is the police will end up getting a criminal complaint against you and you can face those criminal sanctions."
Campoli wanted Manzo to know that this was a serious matter and had he continued to serve alcohol without paying the fine, it would jeopardize any hope of having a license in the future.
Manzo said he was under the impression that he could postpone the payment, as his nephew tried to pay the fees with a credit card and was not able to.
"I had no money, I am doing 25 percent of business I had no money at all," he said. "You know me, everybody knows me, I am a one-man-band, I try the best I can."
Thankfully, Manzo received grant money that made him able to pay the fees, but he said he has remortgaged his house and is doing everything he can to stay afloat during these unprecedented times.
The restaurateur also said he is doing mostly takeout sales for which alcohol is not offered.
In regard to the building inspection, Manzo feels that the situation is out of his hands as he has called building owner Cavalier Management, who is responsible for the sprinklers' inspection report, and has not received a response.
Clemons agreed that Cavalier is responsible for providing the reports prior to inspection, as it is the owner's responsibility to get the sprinklers inspected in the whole building.
Apparently Cavalier contracted out those inspections to a company that recently stopped doing them without notification; they are expected to be completed by February.
The board asked that Clemons' office try to get ahold of the management company to put pressure on this issue, as he may have better luck.
"I would think that they shouldn't be allowed to operate the building at all and maybe that would put some pressure on them," board member Dennis Powell said. "I mean why should restaurateur suffer?"
Clemons agreed to this and was hesitant to issue a temporary 30-day inspection certificate, but was thanked by the board after agreeing to it.
"I hesitate to do that," he said in regard to the temporary permit. "But I understand the dilemma in this atmosphere of COVID in that everybody's having difficulties and were trying to work with people ourselves."
Manzo will return to the Licensing Board on Monday when he is asked to have everything in place for his yearly building inspection certification.