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Pittsfield Board Amends Methuselah's License Suspension

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Licensing Board on Monday partially lifted Methuselah Bar and Lounge’s 30-day entertainment license suspension — which was an addition to a 30-day liquor license suspension for the month of May — to allow background music to be played during service.

Owner Yuki Cohen will be permitted to play recorded music at her bar but will not be allowed to have live entertainment until the ban is lifted on June 27.

On April 29, the board voted to suspend Methuselah's liquor license for 28 days and entertainment license for another month as a result of violations from the evening of Thursday, April 15, into Friday, April 16, that was captured in three videos depicting Cohen dancing on the bar maskless with other patrons as well as a number of other violations.

The liquor license suspension was set between Saturday, May 1, and Friday, May 28, and the entertainment license would have been extended for an additional 30 days.

Methuselah was found for failure to provide food with alcoholic beverages, failure to enforce customers wearing face coverings while not dining and drinking, failure to enforce employees wearing face coverings, failing to enforce customers to be seated at all times, and failure to maintain social distancing.
Cohen, also a city councilor, has been in front of the Licensing Board for seven separate violations since Methuselah's opening and the liquor license issuing in 2014.

"The reason that I extended (the entertainment license suspension) after the liquor license was suspended was the fact that I guess, the music that was being played that night was probably a co-conspirator of why the people got up on the bar to dance," board member Richard Stockwell said, who originally motioned for the additional suspension.

"And I think there's not only was that inappropriate. But also, it was a safety hazard to somebody falling off they're hitting their head after they've had some drinks. And what I was trying to bring forward is that you know, that type of things should not be going on, and if the music is an instigator of that, then maybe we should shut the music down for a while."

The motion passed 4-1 with Kathy Amuso voting in opposition. Amuso took into consideration the amount of time that the Licensing Board has spent on Cohen, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I just don't think it's a good practice knowing the amount of time we've spent on this to go back and reverse our decisions," she said. "I know what they're asking for and I want every business to thrive, but we spent a lot of time on this and I don't think we should repeal the suspension."

Board member Dennis Powell felt that Cohen had been punished enough for her actions and that music is essential to the environment at Methuselah.

"The penalty that we imposed and taking the license away, that was really justified for the action that was taken that day," he said. "So there was a loss of income, and to me, I can't see continuing to make it difficult just because I don't think that music, caused the action, I think the party mood and the fact that it was celebrating a birthday and the people that were involved, caused it."

Cohen clarified that she didn’t have any bands or live music booked, but wished to play pre-recorded music during service so that the bar is "not silent."  

She said the bar has been closed since May 17 because she did not have customers without serving alcohol and thanked the board for amending the original penalty.

"I just wanted to say that I am so grateful and thank you for the accessibility of the liquor board," she said. "I did reach out to me Mrs. Amuso for some advice and just to say that she was right about certain things, and she was very helpful in organizing the meeting between the Board of Health, and ourselves and she joined in on the meeting as well, so just wanted to say thank you for facilitating that, and I'm just grateful for the opportunity to be open on the 29th."

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