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A seasonal restaurant will located in the former Gramercy courtyard at Mass MoCA.

Mass MoCA Readies for Summer Restaurant, Season

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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A conceptual image of the restaurant.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Georgian restaurant out of New York City is planning a pop-up eatery at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art this summer.
 
The Mass MoCA Commission on Wednesday approved the seasonal restaurant to occupy the former Gramercy space, specifically the courtyard near the museum entrance. The restaurant would operate from Memorial Day until some time September.
 
"The operators for this pop-up restaurant are coming to us from Manhattan, where they run two restaurants with Georgian — as in, over-in-Europe Georgian — style food, and they recently, last year pre-COVID, hosted a dinner event for us so we got to know them and their delicious food," said Tracy Moore, the museum's interim director. "They would operate as many days as they could in the beginning as they staff up and ultimately gearing towards full lunch and dinner operations that comport with Mass MoCA hours."
 
Tamara Chubinidze, a native of Tbilisi, Georgia, opened Chama Mama in New York City in 2019 and has had plans to expand. The restaurant is appearing before 
 
Deputy Director Sue Killam said the restaurant has been through the health inspection process and approved by the Fire Department. It will be applying for a temporary pouring license at first to be able to open Memorial Day weekend. Chama Mama is on the Licensing Board agenda next week.
 
The temporary license would be for wine and beer, mostly Georgian wines. The liquor license would not be a transfer from Gramercy, which closed in the early days of the pandemic and never reopened. This has to go through the state so will take some time.
 
The courtyard will allow for outdoor seating and the setup of charcoal grills for cooking the limited menu. Food will be served in takeout containers so patrons can sit elsewhere but alcohol will have to consumed in the restaurant courtyard.
 
The interior will only be used in case of inclement weather and Moore said that will mean less seating because of the space considerations.
 
"There'll be nighttime twinkling lights and a really casual vibe with takeout containers that the food will be served in. And it's really a family friendly just casual atmosphere," Moore said. "What's exciting about this to us is that we share a mutual interest with the restaurant operator to explore this as a test run for a longer-term relationship and a longer-term occupancy here at Mass MoCA."
 
Considering the uncertainties brought on by COVID-19 and the deep investment required to start a restaurant, she said, "this feels like a really prudent way to get to know each other better, enliven in our courtyard, have an exciting new, fun, really unusual ... maybe the only Georgian restaurant in the North Adams area."
 
The commission also got an update on the summer season that kicks off Memorial Day weekend an continues through Fresh Grass in early fall.
 
"On Memorial Day weekend, we are opening our lon- awaited project by artist James Turrell, which is the Skyspace project on the back field next to Joe's Field there," said Moore. "We'll also be celebrating the completion of multiple exhibitions that we've opened in the last year, with regular museum hours and visitors coming to see those exhibitions and enjoy those works with us."
 
Killam, also the director of performing arts, said the museum is "protocol heavy" in terms of pandemic procedures which has had an impact on the performing arts. The museum was able to successfully and safely mount small-scale performances last summer but its major events — such as Solid Sound and Fresh Grass — had to be canceled.
 
Courtyard D was used last year with everyone in their own squares to maintain social distancing and that will be utilized again.
 
"We're going to use that footprint again and do some performances starting on Memorial Day, and then have a few in June and July, and then we're hoping to announce a more robust concert series starting in August, after the restrictions are said to have gone away," Killam said. "But we're going to hold off and announce that a little bit later, just making sure nothing changes."
 
The museum is also asking the state to recognize Joe's Field as a large venue. This will allow a 25 percent capacity so live performances can bee mounted. The state is anticipating a full opening of venues by Aug. 1 so the museum is already selling tickets to Fresh Grass scheduled for the end of September. 
 
The Chalet will be teaming up with Bright Ideas and the big tent will return to Courtyard A with the potential of some live performances during the summer if the public data continues to improve. Killam said a press release with the summer schedule will be released next week.
 
Mayor Thomas Bernard noted the museum, like so many agencies and organizations, "has been parsing through the language and the guidance very carefully to understand where the ever-shifting lines fall."
 
He took time to make an appeal for people to get vaccinated, especially now that shots are available on a walk-in basis. 
 
"A big part of I think all of us feeling comfortable with the hopeful signs is the protective signs follow along in place as well," the mayor said. "But I'm sensing, from what I hear and I hope you are as well, some excitement for summer in North Adams. And we could use it."

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Governor Pushing for Two-Month Sales Tax Holiday

BOSTON — The governor is proposing a two-month-long sales tax holiday this year as a way to support local economies and that would put an estimated $900 million back into residents' pockets. 
 
A sales tax holiday is already on the books for Aug. 14-16, a weekend of tax relief in August that's now a law in the state at this point. The Baker-Polito administration filed legislation on Wednesday to expand the sales tax holiday to the entire months of August and September.
 
"A two-month sales tax holiday will provide a boost to Massachusetts' taxpayers and Main Street economies as we continue to recover from COVID-19," said Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday in a statement. "Massachusetts' economic recovery is off to a good start, but it's crucial that the commonwealth takes action now to spur more economic activity in communities and support taxpayers. Thanks to stronger than expected tax revenues, the commonwealth has managed to grow the rainy day fund to a balance higher than it was at the beginning of the pandemic, and we can also afford to return these tax dollars to our residents and small businesses."
 
State tax revenues for fiscal 2021, he said, continues to "significantly exceed projections." Sales tax revenues to date are 14.9 percent above benchmark and revenues across the board means the state is poised to end the fiscal year with a significant surplus.
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