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Licensing Board: Thistle & Mirth Rebrand Proper Response to Stabbing

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Licensing Board is satisfied with Thistle and Mirth's rebranding after a violent incident on Thanksgiving Eve.

The matter was filed on Monday during a show cause hearing for a stabbing on Nov. 22 after the panel determined that the owners have taken full responsibility and are moving the establishment in a positive direction.

"For me, I see that you took full responsibility and want to do business differently and you are," board member Kathy Amuso said.

Co-owner Austin Oliver agreed, "We don't want to invite those types of behaviors and things into Pittsfield. That doesn't do any good for us or downtown Pittsfield for the state that it is in currently."

Police were dispatched to the former ramen restaurant around 9:40 p.m. the night before Thanksgiving for a reported stabbing and found patrons exiting from the front and rear entrances.

"As a result of the initial investigation, it was determined that an altercation had occurred between two parties inside the bar. This altercation turned physical and one of the parties received a stab wound as a result. The victim and the alleged perpetrator left the scene prior to the police arrival," Lt. Matthew Hill explained.

"Due to the severity of the incident within Thistle and Mirth on that day, I brought this matter before the Licensing Board as I would any other establishment that had something like this take place."

About an hour before the incident, Hill and investigators visited the restaurant while doing compliance checks with members of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission and found no violations. Because they were in plainclothes, the investigators were initially denied entry due to capacity.

Thistle remained closed for weeks as Oliver and co-owner Joad Bowman planned a rebrand. It reopened at the end of December with a smaller footprint, earlier closing hours and a pizza menu.

The hope is to be a restaurant that also serves craft beer instead of a bar that also serves food, Oliver said.

The new emphasis is on games, artsy community events, and well-curated craft beer and the ramen menu was moved to sister eatery Lulu's Tiny Grocery. Last call is at 10 p.m. and the place is cleared by 10:30.

"I am very satisfied with the changes that have been made in the wake of that incident," Hill said.

Last year, the board determined that the eatery responded properly to two January 2023 incidents, one that involved a stabbing and a broken window. Attorney Ethan Klepetar said the owners took significant action to prevent this sort of thing from happening again including additional safety measures.

"I think the business changes are significant because it sends a message to the clientele about what kind of establishment this is. Incidents keep happening, we keep making changes to address those incidents," Klepetar said.

"If you think we're the kind of bar that isn't really about food and it's open till midnight, one o'clock in the morning, you're going to get a certain clientele. These guys do not want that clientele. They know they don't want it and they tried to make changes to prevent it. It didn't work so they made more changes. That's why they converted to pizza and they close earlier, trying to attract an after-work crowd, a family crowd. They don't like that this has happened at Thistle and Mirth. They don't want it to happen at Thistle and Mirth. They keep making changes to try to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Oliver had stepped out for around 20 minutes to close up at Lulu's when the incident happened. Based on staff and witnesses' reports, it happened very quickly, blood "poured out onto the floor," and the bartenders and security worked to get everyone safely out of the building.

Amuso pointed out that the owners closed themselves and got a new business plan while other establishments would stay open until the hearing.

"You've always been responsive when there have been issues there," board member Jody Phillips said.

"I would normally have suggested a reduction in hours which you've imposed on yourself as well. Certainly, no shortage of challenges when you're a bar owner to begin with, and kudos for adhering to your capacity limit."

Campoli agreed, though he wished they could hear more details about the incident. Because it is still under investigation, Hill was limited in the information he could share.

"You have taken those steps," he said. "I think it is important. I think it’s smart from a business standpoint. I think it's the right thing to do for public safety."

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West Side Residents Build Ideal Neighborhood At Zoning Session

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Program manager James McGrath opens the session at Conte Community School.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Residents mapped out a West Side they would like to see during an input session this week, utilizing multi-use properties to create robust density.

Held at Conte Community School on Monday, this was the second meeting of a project to examine zoning in the neighborhood. The Department of Community Development, in partnership with Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, has been working with an urban planning and design consulting team on the effort that will conclude on June 30.

"This is a really important project for your neighborhood," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.

Multifamily houses with spaces to accommodate a small business were popular. A community center, church, year-round farmer's market, and even a place to draw in commerce appeared as elements on the tabletop street.

An emphasis was also placed on the amount of immigrants coming to the area in need of housing.

Max Douhoure, community outreach coordinator for Habitat, explained that he grew up in Africa where people liked to live together, which his build reflected.

"I wanted to improve their conditions," he said. "That’s what I did."

During the first meeting in November, the team heard desires for businesses and commercial uses — including a need for small, family-owned business support. The session provided an overview of what zoning is, what zoning can and can't do, how zoning can improve the community, and the impact on residents.

"Today's exercise is really about creating spaces in buildings and on properties to do a combination of residential [uses] that meet the needs and commercial uses that meet the needs of the neighborhood,"  Emily Keys Innes, principal of Innes Associates explained.

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