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Pittsfield Licensing Board Give Jae’s Grille a Warning

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The License Board gives Jae's Grille a warning for having entertainment without a license and violating its liquor license.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Licensing Board hit Jae's Grille with a warning after the eatery violated its alcohol license and hosted entertainment without a license.
 
The board tabled the agenda item last Monday after a show cause hearing and told Jae's Grille manager Bonnie Hayden and the restaurant's owners that as long as there are no more issues, the matter will stay tabled for the rest of the year.
 
"We will put this on file with the caveat that if they violate those restrictions, we will take it out of file and impose some discipline," Chairman Thomas Campoli said. "We don't want to make life hard for you but when shots are fired. We want all of your ducks in order."
 
Police Captain Michael Grady told the board that issues stem from an Oct. 27 Halloween party. 
 
He said patrol officers were dispatched to the area after midnight to investigate a loud party. It was found that Jae's Grill did not have permission to serve alcohol after 11 and did not hold an entertainment license. 
 
He said patrol officers reported that the party was shut down and people were dispersing.
 
Grady said officers were called back right before 1 a.m. because patrons were getting rowdy while leaving. Soon after, more officers responded to shots fired in the area.
 
He said bullet casings were found across the street on Curtis Street.
 
This did not sit well with the board.
 
"This really bothered me because no one at Jae's took responsibility," board member Kathleen Amuso said. "Our police are people that are supposed to protect us and had to go there three times. They were in jeopardy of things happening to them, the neighbors, and people passing by were in jeopardy ... This is egregious, it is not acceptable, and I think there should be severe consequences."
 
Campoli asked if the patrons from the party were involved in the weapon discharge and Grady could not determine if party attendees discharged the weapon or if it actually happened on the premise.
 
Attorney Jeffrey Lynch, representing restaurant owner Seven Winter Grille Inc., acknowledged the seriousness of a firearm but said he did not think there was enough evidence to suggest anyone from the party was involved or that it happened on the premise.
 
"The evidence without controversy that a neighbor or someone from across the street fired a firearm," he said. "Between the shot detectors and the evidence of shell casings all show that that was off premise activity." 
 
Grady said, regardless, Jae's Grille still violated its license agreement.
 
Lynch had questions about this and said the original license had no restrictions that would apply to the incident. He said he could not find a request to reduce hours.
 
Campoli produced meeting minutes from 2013 that stated that the hours ran from Saturday to Sunday 11 to 11.
 
Lynch said he was unsure if this applied to the restaurant, that is now closed, or the entire business. He was unsure if the banquet hall was allowed some flexibility outside of restaurant restrictions. 
 
Lynch went into some of the party details and said space had been leased out as it typically would. The party organizer agreed to hire five security staff members. Jae's Grille staff were also at the party.
 
The party organizer also agreed to employ metal detectors. Although not a typical practice, board member Richard Stockwell said this is quite normal at Halloween parties.
 
"When you have a Halloween party when people are dressed in costumes ... sometimes you don't know who is dressed up and what they are coming in with," he said.
 
Lynch said Hayden was also on site. She reported that she saw patrons dispersing and only saw some patrons off premise talking.
 
She did not witness any altercation or shots fired. 
 
As for the lack of entertainment license, Lynch had no excuse. 
 
"This was a complete oversight," he said. "They have been in the restaurant industry forever and were surprised that it was not in place ... we don't have an excuse for not having a license."
 
Lynch said there has been entertainment at past parties but pledged to stop allowing entertainment until the establishment receives the right license. 
 
Stockwell noted that there have been other parties since the Halloween incident at which management or an appropriate amount of staff was not present for large periods.
 
Hayden, who splits her time managing another establishment, said everyone is scheduled, however, ofte times employees do not show up.
 
Stockwell did vouch for Hayden and said he thought she just may have too much going on. 
 
"I have known Bonnie for 20 years and I know what type of manager," he said. "She has a great reputation and I think she just has one to many places to be the manager. You can't be at the Hilton and on Winter Street at the same time. Maybe she needs to step back."
 
Before the vote, the board urged Jae's Grille to staff parties properly. 
 
Jae's Grille is allowed to operate within the parameters of its licenses. The board agreed if there is another violation they will execute sanctions. 
 
Lynch agreed to these terms and said the restaurant owners have invested in Pittsfield and want their business to reflect their professionalism. 
 
"The license holder has been committed to the city of Pittsfield for years and they operate successful businesses," he said. "Their success is in large part driven by them being attentive to the rules and regulations set by the board ... this is a blip."
 
In other business, the board tabled an agenda item requesting more information from Tony's Berkshire Boats at 483 West Housatonic St. about possible zoning conflicts
 
"When all of the ducks are in a row, we can take this up again," Stockwell said. "Until we get more information from the Zoning Board of Appeals."  
 
Tony's Berkshire Boats attorney Bill Martin said the city had invited them to a meeting to discuss issues with the zoning. He claimed that although the use is non-conforming to the B-C zoning district, it is a pre-existing use 
 
Used cars sales are not permitted by right in this district but new cars are. 
 
Martin held a finding from 1995 from a previous zoning officer that the sale of used cars was then a pre-existing use. He said cars have been sold on the property since before World War II.
 
"There has always been a certain volume of used car sales," he said. "They primarily deal in boat sales but do sell used cars especially in the winter months."
 
Permitting Coordinator Nate Joyner tended to agree and said as long as Tony's Berkshire Boats can prove that there has never been a lapse of over a period of two years during which used cars have not been sold, the use is pre-existing and stays with the property. 
 
"A pre-existing non-confomring use is allowed to continue until it is abandoned," he said. "If it is abandoned for two years or more, it is no longer a condition without going through the special permit process."
 
Martin said he had these records.
 
He added that he did not think the Licensing board was the correct body to deal with the issue. He said if it's the city's position is that the sale of used cars is no longer a pre-existing use or the business has expanded beyond this pre-existing use they would need to issue an enforcement order.
 
If this were to happen, Tony's Berkshire Boats could then go before the Zoning board of Appeals.
 
He said the licensing board really has no authority over the issue that in reality deals with zoning. Martin said he wasn't even sure if there was an appeal process in place under the board. 

Tags: license board,   alcohol license,   alcohol violation,   entertainment license,   

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