Key West Gets Hours Clipped, Ordered to Have Doorman After Shooting

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Key West Bar and Lounge had its operating hours reduced and was ordered to have a trained doorman several days of the week by the License Commission on Tuesday after a shooting last month that sent two people to the hospital.
The commission voted to roll back the bar's closing time to 1 a.m. from 2, on condition it be reviewed at the end of June. The three-person commission also placed a condition on the license that Key West have a "trained" doorman working from 9 p.m. until closing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. 
Owner Michael Bloom did not contest the final restrictions and said he wanted to work with the city and police as he had in the past. 
"I just want to state that nobody wants anything bad to happen anywhere," he said. "I do not, and my employees do not, and in our clientele do not."
The shooting had occurred after closing and outside the bar but appears to have been linked to an altercation in Key West that occurred around closing on Sunday, Feb. 20.  
Police Chief Jason Wood told the commission that police had reviewed the security footage from the bar and believed that "this tragic incident could have been avoided if better practices had been followed by the staff working at the time."
He specifically pointed to the staff's failure to call police after an initial altercation, a report of a gun being brandished and allowing a 19-year-old to be in the bar for hours that Saturday evening. 
The incident involved two victims and two suspects, whose names were not used by officials during Tuesday's show cause hearing. The suspects are Paul Starbird, 19, of North Adams, who was arrested the next day and Keith Larrabee, 27, of North Adams. A third unidentified man was also involved. 
The bartenders were in the process of closing up and getting people out when they heard the gunshots outside nearly 20 minutes later. 
Several residences around the bar called police on hearing the shots and the two victims were discovered inside a neighboring apartment building. 
According to police, an altercation at 1:05 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 20, during which Suspect 2 allegedly punched Victim 2, immediately preceded the shooting. Suspect 2 was removed from the bar, followed by the others. Witnesses, including the doorman, said he "brandished" a gun. 
Officers said they could not see the gun on camera but could see the red targeting light. 
Wood said surveillance video showed both identified suspects entering the bar two more times each after being removed. He also said review of the video did not indicate there was a bouncer on duty at the door although he was later interviewed by police. 
Bloom said the 19-year-old entered the bar with a party of six nearly a half hour before the doorman came on duty that night. There is no indication Starbird was served alcohol but he was seen drinking from a water bottle. 
The party was quiet, moving around and playing pool until Suspect 2 struck Victim 2. 
Commissioner Peter Breen sharply questioned Bloom on the training of the employees, standards of practice and his own interpretation of the events, as well as how the bar could have avoided tying up so many public safety personnel that night by alerting police earlier.
Bloom said both bartenders were trained and experienced and that the altercation had happened so fast the they had not been aware of it until it was already over. He said he'd spoken extensively with Victim 2, a longtime friend, about what happened. 
"He was talking to a friend he had not seen quite a long time. He said inexplicably, over his shoulder, a guy reached over and slapped the guy he's talking to," Bloom said. "So victim No. 2 is a large man. He 'bear hugged' this guy out the door ... So that was what represented a fight."
Last call had been about 12:30 and that once closed, no one would be readmitted but there were people still leaving at the time the suspects had re-entered. They hadn't gone near the bar and they hadn't been served. 
The doorman was a contracted employee paid by shift and had been working for him on and off over the past six months. He agreed that the individual had been lacking in awareness and should have immediately called police or notified the bartenders that one of the patrons had pulled a gun. 
That person has since been fired, Bloom said. "It's hard to find a good person, until then you're looking at the door guy."
Neighbor Dan Berger told the commission there have been 10 shots fired near his apartment in the past four months, all of which had originated at Key West. The more critically injured victim had collapsed at the bottom of his stairs, he said. 
"I have neighbors who are afraid to come here because, Bloom I don't know how many buildings you own in that block, but we all rent from him," Berger said. People are afraid to speak out on this. They're afraid because there are gunshots happening. ...
"If 10 gunshots were originating from my cannabis establishment, I would have had my license pulled yesterday."
Mayor Jennifer Macksey reminded the commission and Bloom to consider Victim 1, who was not in a good place. 
"There was a first victim whose life has been altered tremendously, who will heal, who will get better, but because someone didn't see, or something wasn't said, his life was altered," she said. "It's great that Victim 2 is doing well. It's great that Victim 2 is communicating. But there was another victim and we could have had a lot more victims on State Street. So I thank you for letting the process play out. But I just want you to remember there's another victim."
Breen had initially called for a doorman every night until closing but Bloom objected that the bar wasn't busy every night. On Monday, he said, there had been two customers in the last hour and that the bartender had closed up at 10:30 p.m. The commission agreed to make it only three nights a week and leave any further coverage to Bloom's discretion. 
"Society's changed a lot. And I think that we just have to be very vigilant at all times," said Bloom.

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Northern Berkshire United Way Sets $480K Campaign Goal

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Christine and Peter Hoyt are this year's campaign co-chairs. Their goal is to raise $480,000 over the next year. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire United Way supports 20 member agencies in the work they do addressing social, health, youth and family services throughout the region. 
Two of those agencies — Louison House and Community Legal Aid — highlighted some of the efforts within the community at United Way's annual campaign kick on Wednesday morning at Norad Mill. 
The agency also announced its new slate of officers and board members, including President Kelly McCarthy and Vice President Tyler Bissaillon, and took a moment to remember the contributions of the late Stephen Green, a longtime community activist and former campaign co-chair with his wife, Susanne Walker.
"While our hearts in our community at large are at a loss for a man who truly embody all of the characteristics and traits that we acknowledge as Northern Berkshire, such as honesty, integrity, commitment, selfless service, dedication, we can be comforted in knowing that his legacy lives on," said Jennifer Meehan, vice chair of Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, of which Green was a board member and former president. 
Kathy Keeser, executive director of Louison House, described the history of the shelter that opened more than three decades ago after the closure of Sprague Electric and other local mills devastated the economy. Founded by Theresa Louison, the agency has expanded to provide emergency shelter, family housing, transitional housing, preventive services and, soon, a youth shelter facility. 
Housing is a growing need while at the same time, housing costs are rising, she said, and this effects particularly the people Louison House serves, people who don't have savings or credit — "who are at the last chance of an apartment."
"People are really struggling, but it's our community connections and it's our work with other agencies," Keeser said. "We do a piece of the puzzle. Ours is about getting them out to housing — working with mental health, substance abuse, all the other agencies around to help us do that. And the United Way has been a big part of that, along with Williamstown Community Chest, and so many other businesses and individuals that support us. So it is the community that helps us succeed and helps us do what we're doing."
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