NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The proprietors of the popular Freight Yard Pub were approved for a new venture in the former Dairy Queen on Curran Highway.
Colleen Taylor told the Planning Board on Monday that the property would be a pickup, drive-thru eatery open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
"We're looking to really maximize, you know, some of these new things that are happening with COVID and social distancing so the drive-thru really will help with that," she said.
Restaurants across the state were forced to close for inside dining in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were able to turn to takeout and many have continued that practice even though limited dining is being allowed.
Taylor said there won't be any inside dining at the new eatery. "People may wait in there if they're waiting for food but we're really hoping they wait in their cars," she said.
She said names are hard to come up with but so far the business is being called the Craft Food Barn. Their architect is looking into where they can post signage because of the proximity to the roadway but she anticipated entrance and exit signs to loop traffic around the building and some roof signage.
"I really do want to open every day at 6 a.m. and close with like a 10 o'clock close," Taylor said. The closing time would be consistent with Freight Yard Pub and the Taylor's second restaurant, Trail House, since those establishments tend to start winding down around 9 unless there are special events. "Maybe sometimes in the wintertime you don't necessarily need to stay open that late. Seasonality will dictate some of that."
Taylor and her brother, Sean Taylor, operating as Taylor North Adams Properties LLC, purchased the former dairy bar at 465 Curran Highway for $30,000 from Haskins Holdings LLC. The barnlike structure dates to 1953 and has been closed for a number of years.
The board also approved the expansion of the former Rick's Quality Auto Sales, which was purchased by Joseph T. Dean and Michael Libardi, operating as D&L LLC, for $123,724 on July 2 from Alfred V. "Rick" Ostrowski.
"We want to do auto restorations and repair on classic cars at that location," said Dean, who also operates Dean's Quality Auto on Curran Highway. "We want to add on to the building for more space inside, it's a little small. It would be a wood-frame building, it would look like the building that's there. ... It would have the same colors, follow the same layout."
They had originally applied for a 40-by-32 foot single-story structure at 175 Hodges Cross Road but had amended that to 40 by 36 feet. The addition would be on the west side, toward the cable company office.
It would have two garage doors and a pass door and would be used as workspace. The hours would be 8 to 5 weekdays with deliveries made during that time. Traffic would be minimal, said Dean, because it would mainly be restoration work.
"We'd just like to clean the place up, make the place beautiful again and get a good business operating out of that location," he said, adding that all of the vehicles currently there are being removed.
"We've done a lot of work down there in the last five weeks: over 50 cars, 15-yard dumpsters full of trash, at least 12 loads down after the scrap yard, and we're still hauling," Dean said. "We're going to get it all out of there and go right back to like brand-new construction."
"Mr. Dean, it looks fantastic compared to what it's been," said Planner Brian Miksic. "I was very happy to hear
that you had purchased it, you run a good business in our community and care about what it looks like. In just the first steps it's already is night and day as to what it's looked like over the past decades."
Planner Lynette Bond asked about the number of cars, believing there had been about 200 there at one time. Dean said the permit had been for 135 but it "got out of control." His new business would not require space for that many vehicles and thought 50 would be more than enough.
The plans were approved with 50 vehicles as a condition.
An application to operate a sporting goods store was continued by the board, which requested more information on plans for the exterior, signage, lighting and security.
William Preite plans to open in the former Doran's Carpet Shop to sell fishing and hunting gear, along with ammunition and firearms he described as high-end collectible pieces. He said the building's owner has done over the inside and plans on putting metal sheathing on the exterior and install steel doors and bars on the windows. Preite said there was a safe for storing guns and rifles and they would be locked up at night.
"Looking at your application, I thought it was a little lacking in detail and the state of the building I thought was not addressed very well. ... the building could use quite a bit of TLC," said Chairman Michael Leary. "I also noticed that there's no plan for parking."
Preite said there are about eight or 10 parking spots in the front and more space in the back, where the accessible entrance would be.
Bond said she was uncomfortable with the thought of firearms being sold near Child Care for the Berkshires and asked about safety and how important the gun sales were to his business. Leary asked about the types of guns and if there could be a condition that the only guns on premises would be "collectible."
Miksic objected strongly that such conditions were not even in the board's purview.
"I think that we should not be in the business of telling businesses what they can and can't sell. I think that is a terrible precedent for this board to make," he said. "These are legal items to be sold in this state, city and country. I've been on this board for almost 15 years, we have never, that I know of, mandated what someone could and could not sell. And I do not even think it's in our purview."
Planner Kyle Hanlon agreed, and added "I think any kind of classification like that is way too broad and open to interpretation."
Planner Lisa Blackmer said her concern was security for when the store was open as well as closed, including lighting, cameras and security systems.
The board agreed to continue the hearing and asked Preite to provide the information they sought and suggested his landlord appear to answer questions about the building. Preite had sought to open a sporting goods store in Williamstown last year but abandoned the effort in the face of opposition.
In other business:
• Orion Howard and Benjamin Lamb, doing business as Poddy Mouth Studio LLC, were approved for a recording studio at 55-59 Union St. Lamb said it was "very small project in the grand scheme of things" that would offer a studio for audio recordings like podcasts and audio books in a membership set up.
"So it's trying to create another asset for that creative side of the economy locally," he said.
Described as a like "a large living room," it would have four microphones set up but for the forseeable future would likely be restricted to he and Howard because of the social distancing requirement during the pandemic.
Miksic abstained from the hearing and vote because he owns the property — the HiLo building — where the studio will be located.
• North Berkshire School Union was approved to relocate its offices to 26 Union St., the Wall-Streeter Building owned by Moresi & Associates. The union, which serves Clarksburg, Florida, Monroe, Rowe and Savoy, has been on Ashland Street and is seeking larger quarters that are also handicapped accessible.
• Planners approved a walk-up window for Evergreen Strategies' marijuana dispensary at 221 State Road. The board had approved a special permit for the operation in 2018 and Evergreen CEO Anthony Parrinello said the Cannabis Control Commission had granted its provisional license in January.
The company is ready to move forward with the anticipation to open in November or December but is trying to operate safely under the precautions put in place because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. A walk-up window would allow the company to operate safely and effectively, he said, but the city ordinance calls for everything to be done inside.
"I don't want to get closer and not have a plan to be compliant with the city ordinance," Parrinello said. "Because even if we had to do curbside pickup, technically, we'd be out compliance, and that's not something I want to do."
Chairman Michael Leary said either a walk-up window or curbside would be allowed under the governor's pandemic orders but would be out of compliance as soon as those emergency orders are lifted. Building Inspector William Meranti agreed.
"At the moment, I think the board does have the ability to grant this," he said. "The problem being that it could go away — unless the city has in mind to change the ordinance in the near future."