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Williamstown Select Board Weighs Potential Enforcement for Future Alcohol Violations

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Select Board member Andrew Hogeland and Jane Patton on Monday. Patton, who has a background in hospitality, says local servers take the alcohol checks very seriously.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A pair of failed alcohol compliance checks had the Select Board on Monday thinking about what steps it should take if the businesses in question slip up again.
 
On July 28, the Police Department conducted compliance checks at 23 of the town's 30 licensed venues in conjunction with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.
 
Of the businesses checked, two — the Williams Inn and Casa Lina — served beer to a 19-year-old woman who entered the establishments in the company of a plainclothes police officer, according to a memo from Police Chief Kyle Johnson.
 
The board decided to authorize Town Manager Jason Hoch to send a letter to the businesses that failed to notify them of the board's concern and its intention to take action if one of the establishments is found in violation again in the next 12 months.
 
At a minimum, the board, acting in its capacity as the town's license-granting authority, will bring license holders in for an appearance before the body. And the four members of the board attending Monday's meeting appeared to agree that some sort of license suspension for a second offense likely would be appropriate.
 
But the board stopped short of implementing a policy mandating license suspension for second offenders.
 
Select Board member Jeffrey Thomas moved that the board notify the purveyors that they would face "at least a one-day suspension" for a second offense. But that motion died without a second.
 
Andrew Hogeland recommended that, instead, the town's letter notify the businesses in question that if there is a second offense, "We'll ask you to come in in person and we'll decide what to do, which could include … suspension."
 
Hoch advised the board that it should avoid locking itself into a specific term for prospective suspensions.
 
"If there are other incidents, I'd want the board to retain its full authority," Hoch said. "You may wish to have a different, stronger response."
 
Or, there may be extenuating circumstances for either the first or second offense, as were referenced in the case of one of the violations cited in Monday's meeting.
 
At both the establishments with July violations, the servers indicated they recognized the plainclothes officer who accompanied the minor. One of the servers told Johnson that she knew the officer to, in fact, be a police officer, Johnson reported.
 
Both the establishments sent the Select Board letters in advance of Monday's meeting.
 
The president of the Waterford Hotel Group, which manages the Williams Inn on behalf of Williams College, told the board that, "This violation is a matter we take very seriously.
 
"All associates have been reviewed for Training for Intervention Procedures ["TIPS"] training and certification," Waterford's Michael Heaton wrote in a letter dated Aug. 7. "Any associate who is not TIPS trained and certified will complete the training within the next seven days following the incident. Only associates that are TIPS trained and certified will be scheduled and able to serve alcohol."
 
Casa Lina manager Jose Carlos Huasaquiche wrote that, "We are very saddened about the unfortunate incident that took place at our restaurant."
 
TIPS, or Training for Intervention Procedures, is an educational program for alcohol servers.
 
"We have taken serious steps to avoid such an incident in the future," Huasaquiche wrote. "The team members who don't have TIPS certification were asked to be certified within the next couple of weeks, or else they will no longer be working with us.
 
"It has been our policy and will continue to be our policy [that] we will ID everyone who will be consuming alcohol at Casa Lina."
 
Select Board member Jane Patton, who has professional experience in the hospitality field in town, said that she has talked to colleagues in the field about the compliance checks and the gravity with which the board treats failed checks.
 
"I'm confident everyone takes this very, very seriously," Patton said. "We have so few issues for a college town, and part of it is that we've been so adamant over the years how seriously we take things."
 
In other business on Monday evening, the Select Board approved a seasonal wine and malt liquor license for Hot Tomatoes at 100 Water St., which plans to start allowing alcohol consumption in a "three-season pavilion" it has erected at the rear of its property along the Green River.
 
"You'll be able to walk in, purchase your win or malt and be able to walk out and enjoy the picnic tables by the river," Hot Tomatoes manager Matt England told the board.
 
"Everyone will be TIPS trained, including myself."
 
Hoch's administrative assistant, Debra Turnbull, who staffs the Select Board, informed board members that England has secured single-day licenses to serve in the past and has never had any issues.
 
Patton used the opportunity to remind England about the importance of complying with the law, including some aspects of particular note in the college town.
 
"The TIPS training thing is really, really critical and just making sure folks are not being overserved and knowing what to do if they are overserved," Patton said. "Massachusetts has some pretty strong rules. If it's not a Massachusetts driver's license, you're supposed to have a second form of ID, and a your Williams ID can't be used because your birthdate isn't on there."
 
The board vote 4-0 to approve the seasonal license, which will allow Hot Tomatoes to serve from April 1 to Dec. 31.

Tags: alcohol violation,   license board,   

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Williams Officials: Town's Safety High Priority in Reopening Plan

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College officials Friday sought to assure the Board of Health that the safety of the town is at the forefront of the school's plan to welcome students back to campus at the end of the month.
 
The college's vice president for finance and administration told the board in a virtual meeting that the impact on the community is something that is discussed every day by the school as it prepares for the beginning of students' arrival on Aug. 24.
 
"Every conversation is rooted in what is safe not only for the college community but the community as a whole," Matt Sheehy said. "As a community member myself living in town, that's rooted in every conversation we have."
 
The college's general counsel, Jamie Art, another town resident who serves on the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee, joined Sheehy and Williams Director of Medical Services Deborah Flynn to talk more about what the college is doing to implement its COVID-19 safety protocols and, in some cases, where it needs support from the town.
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