North Adams Bar License Suspended After Stabbing

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The License Commission suspended the Artery Lounge's alcohol license for 60 days.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Artery Lounge was handed a 60-day suspension and a significant reduction in hours following the stabbing incident outside the bar on Saturday morning.

The License Commission voted 2-0, with one abstention, on Tuesday evening to enforce the suspension of its alcohol license effective immediately and cut the bar's hours for serving alcohol after that from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Artery at 68 Union St. has been closed since an emergency meeting of the board on Saturday.

A melee shortly after its closing about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday devolved into the stabbing of 41-year-old Derrick Borum.

Two Pittsfield men, Brandon Green, 20, and Messiah Grandson, 21, were arraigned in District Court on Monday morning. Not-guilty pleas were entered on their behalf. A third man, Donnell McFarland of Pittsfield and Brooklyn, N.Y., was being sought in the incident.

"This was the whipped cream," said Chairman Jeffrey Polucci, describing the increasing frequency of problems at the venue since its relocation three years ago from Holden Street and the conditions the board has set in an attempt to curb problems.

"I feel there are public safety issues," he said, adding the bar has had "a history of being out of control." "I thought we were trying to help them. ... This was a bar that never had a problem."

Attorney Mark Brennan, representing bar owner Daniel O'Neil, argued repeatedly that the fight occurred outside the Artery after it had closed and across the street.

"Last call was at 1:15," he said, and the bouncers cleared everyone out by about 1:30. "It was outside, nothing started inside."

Brennan said he had been told that the persons in question had not been allowed in the building because it was too late. One of the two doormen had also aided the officer and emergency medical technicians in getting the victim into the ambulance.

The board offered little sympathy, referring to past incidents including frequent fights, police calls and underage drinking, noting one of those arrested on Saturday was underage. There was also concern that the bar's managers that night had not called 911 as the crowd appeared to get out of hand.

Saturday's stabbing was the second incident in as many weeks, after a man was found in the bar with a gunshot wound on June 3. The discovery was made after a call about two women fighting outside that also included a report of underage drinking.  

O'Neil objected that he was not aware of some of the reports of underage drinking and that the bar had passed a number of alcohol checks. He said he had met all the prior conditions meted out by the board and done everything he could to rein in his patrons.

"We do the best we can. ... I don't want to see anybody get hurt," he said.

Police Director Michael Cozzaglio said security videos indicated the problem began inside the bar.

According Cozzaglio, based on police reports and video from security cameras, there was no 911 call this past Saturday morning. Officer Gregory Onorato had been parked across from the Artery and the Crystal Hard Hat around the corner on Canal Street; he left to patrol the area and returned to find the melee.

"Inside the bar there was some problems occurring," said Cozzaglio. "There was some friction occurring, you can hear the bouncers trying to clear the bar out."
The police director said the suspects involved in this incident had been inside. From the security camera on the Crystal Hard Hat, he said, you could see "the crowd is spilling out on to the sidewalk and that's when the stabbing takes place."

Brennan said he had not seen the police reports or the video yet. Again, he said, there had been no indications of problems inside the bar and his client shouldn't be held culpable for actions he had no control over.

"If I walked out of here and stabbed someone, does that make you responsible?" he asked the board. "How could he possibly know that people were going to leave his bar and stab anybody across the street."

Jennifer Breen, a city councilor, was there as legal counsel to relatives of Chris Stanley, 28, who was killed when the pickup truck he was driving crashed into the flood control chute on Canal Street in February 2012. Stanley's family believes he had been at the Artery prior to the crash.

Breen said the Artery's management was a matter of public safety because of possible overserving and its patrons being outside by the busy road.

"I'm frightened for the police and for the safety of the community in general," she said.  

The board in essence agreed, although Commissioner Jeffrey Kemp abstained. He said he wanted to look through a number of case reports he requested from Cozzaglio.

O'Neil has five days from the receipt of a certified letter from the License Commission to appeal to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

In other business, the commission approved a one-day license for Desperados to serve alcohol outside at the annual Eagle Street Beach Party from 6:30  to 10 p.m. on Friday, July 12, with a rain date of July 19.

Tags: alcohol license,   license board,   license suspension,   stabbing,   

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