North Adams Restaurant Has to Reapply for Alcohol License

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Desperados restaurant won't be able to serve alcohol until it gets a new license under its new ownership. 
Former owner Peter Oleskiewicz and new manager Chris Bonnivier had been scheduled to discuss the transition situation with the License Commission on Tuesday but Commissioner Rosemari Dickinson informed her colleagues that the restaurant's license had been turned in. 
"Mr. Oleskiewicz hand-walked his license to surrender to us yesterday," Dickinson said at Tuesday's meeting. "So the license is no longer. He voluntarily surrendered it."
Since the property no longer has a valid license, the alcohol cannot even be stored at 23 Eagle St., she said, because the pouring license is no longer in effect. The alcohol can be sold to other license holders, with permission of the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, or back to the distributor. 
She said it was up to the license holder to remove the liquor since it was purchased under that license. 
When contacted, Oleskiewicz said the alcohol belonged to the new owners and it was up to them to get it off the premises. 
A new team with Bonnivier, a well-known local chef, and his partners Sandra Lopez Nieves and Joseph Bevilacqua took over the restaurant in September, and recently announced that restaurant's former owner, David Atwell, will be coming back on board. 
Oleskiewicz, a city councilor, has said operating both the Mexican restaurant and the Miss Adams Diner had become too much, largely because of a shortage of staff. He had stayed on the license as manager but is no longer involved. 
The commission said the new team would have to apply for another pouring license if it wanted to serve alcohol. 
"They have to start from the beginning so it's no longer transfer as soon as this goes back [to the ABCC]," said Dickinson. "Once the state's informed that this is no longer being licensed, 23 Eagle St. becomes open again and they would apply for a brand-new license."
The business cannot apply for any other type of license, such as a special one-day license, in the meantime.
The restaurant is closed this week because of a medical issue, according to its Facebook page. Dickinson asked Commissioners Peter Breen and Michael Goodson if wanted to do a walk through when it reopened to see if the alcohol had been removed; Breen suggested that a police officer do it and report back. 
Breen also suggested sending the new owners a letter informing them of the situation and as a way to get them communicating with the commission on their plans. 
The commission also spoke with Abbas Choudhry about errors in the application for Shahmer LLC to take over Dave's Package Store on River Street, including not yet changing over a New York driver's license to Massachusetts after moving to North Adams. 
Choudhry said some of the errors and missing information had been corrected at the state level but Dickinson said those changes also had to be completed on the five-page application submitted to the commission. 
"Act like you're filling out a brand-new application for a transfer because that's what it's for," she said. "The necessary paperwork will come down with the checklist again, do whatever you have to, that we need that's not included. ...
"We've already received this back one time and so rather than to keep stalling it, I suggest you fill out ... so that everything is answered."'
Owner David Atwell had already sent in the renewal for the package store license so it would only be a transfer on Choudry's end, Dickinson said. 
She also reported to the commission that there were still seven license renewals that had not been returned by early Tuesday but she had contacted the owners who said they would get them in by day's end. 
City Councilor Jennifer Barbeau, who attended the meeting, asked about any restaurants that had closed because of the commercial tax rate. A restaurant owner had reached out to her about closures after last week's tax classification hearing that had centered the tax burden carried by small businesses. 
Dickinson said five restaurants were not renewing their license but not from anything to do with the tax rate, as far as she knew. The five not renewing are Desperados, the Capitol (which closed this past summer), the Pitcher's Mound (which closed because of retirements), Door Prize (which opened this past summer at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), and The Ranch, which closed a couple weeks ago in part because of staffing shortages. 
"They were all going to close anyways or have already closed," she said. 

Tags: license board,   restaurants,   

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Adams COA, Town Seek Funds for Memorial Building Bathrooms

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff

ADAMS, Mass. — The Council on Aging is still waiting to transition its programming from the Visitor Center to the Memorial Building and is looking to the Community Development Department for help. 

The COA has been waiting for additional bathroom facilities to be completed for the facility, but the council and the town have so far been unable to obtain grant or other funding for the work.


COA Director Sarah Fontaine said they are working with Community Development to find funds for the bathrooms and other small improvements, including increased entrance accessibility, renovations to the former music room and fixed windows. 


"I had voiced my concern. It's a very extensive list, I don't expect that it will all be done before we transition over. The only need is the bathrooms," Fontaine said. 


At last week's Board of Selectmen meeting, Community Development Director Eammon Coughlin said he looked into using Community Development Block Grant funds for the project. He said, however, that the Memorial Building is ineligible.


"The guidance we received from [the state Department of Housing and Community Development] has basically told us that the building is ineligible for funding because we already received funding in 2018," he said. "There has to be five years between the application for senior-center type projects. So based on that guidance, I don't believe Memorial School is eligible for funding."  


Fontaine also mentioned the auditorium in the building, which the town plans to renovate separately as a future capital project. 


"It would be nice as a senior center to have the auditorium available for guest lectures and other things like that," she said. 


Moving staff to the Memorial Building now while keeping programming at the Visitor Center, Fontaine said, is not an option. She noted that the Hoosac Valley Regional School District had previously expressed interest in using the second floor of the Visitor Center for its office space. 


"I was very firm in saying, logistically, it's hard for us to manage things just being upstairs. It's going to be very difficult if we're off site to try and manage programs downstairs," she said. 


In other business: 


  • The Council on Aging is looking for volunteers to fill vacancies on its advisory board. It filled one of the vacancies on Wednesday, appointing Barbara Ziemba. Ziemba, an active participant in the COA, had already filled out the paperwork needed for her appointment. 


"I have attended many COA activities, volunteer, and am a member of the Friends of the Council on Aging and attend meetings. I have been interested in being a member of the Board of Directors for some time. Please consider my appointment to the board," Ziemba wrote, explaining in her paperwork why she was interested in the position.           


The group also discussed two other vacancies on the board and potential candidates to fill them. Two members have been unable to attend recent meetings for health reasons. 


  • The board voted to approve updated bylaws. The bylaws were revised and written primarily by Board Member Elizabeth Mach. 


"I just wanted to make a comment, or rather an appreciation, for Liz for taking this project on," Fontaine said. 


The new bylaws have a provision to allow honorary members. Fontaine said there are currently no honorary members. 


The board appointed Bruce Shepley as the board's chair to replace Barbara Lagowski, who filled one of the now vacant member seats. 

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