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Methuselah Bar and Lounge was back in front of the Licensing Board after a stabbing outside the bar and allegations of overserving.

Stabbing, Alleged Overserving Brings Methuselah Back to Licensing Board

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Methuselah Bar and Lounge was back in front of the Licensing Board after a stabbing outside the bar and allegations of overserving.

On Monday, the board continued a hearing for Methuselah so that the establishment and police can discuss the May 10 incident. The bar's attorney William Martin said he received the police's detailed reasoning for the hearing just over an hour before the meeting and that a public records request was needed for the report from that night.

"I think that that is unfair, unwarranted, and inappropriate," he said.

Police Capt. Matthew Hill said he approved the release of an unredacted police report last week and that he has made many attempts to talk to the owner, Yuki Cohen.

"I'm not out to sandbag people," he said.

In 2021, Methuselah was slapped with a 30-day liquor license suspension after being cited for COVID-19 violations after video footage of the owner dancing maskless atop her bar — along with other violations — surfaced. The establishment also faced a two-day suspension that same year and a five-day suspension in 2018.

Cohen was also hit with a $1,000 fine for COVID violations in 2020.

Board member Jon Lifergren felt that "history would tell us that there's no reason to doubt what we're being told here."  

"I would like you two to get together and figure out if you want to ask them who and what, because to come before us now and have the Pittsfield Police say that there was intoxicated people, it doesn't bode well," board member Kathy Amuso said before making a motion to table.

Around midnight on Friday, May 10, police responded to a reported stabbing outside of the bar at 391 North St.

"Although the initial altercation which led to the stabbing occurred inside Methuselah, the actual stabbing occurred in the parking lot of Dery Funeral Home at 54 Bradford St., which is located behind Methuselah," Hill said.

"As the incident was being investigated by the PPD's detective bureau and patrol units, Methuselah bar staff told detectives while they were using their body-worn cameras that the incident inside the bar 'Should all be on camera,' as they have a camera system. This party advised detectives that the owner, Yuki Cohen, accesses the cameras from her phone."

Cohen subsequently told the police that her interior cameras did not record and that she had nothing to provide, Hill reported, and she was not present at the bar during the incident.

Last year, surveillance footage from the Tartell Gallery in the rear of the restaurant was shared with the public and analyzed by PPD after two paintings were stolen from it.

"I have attempted on a few occasions to speak with her in person regarding this but have been unsuccessful," Matthew elaborated.

"While off-duty one day, I spoke with a friend of mine who had stated that he was in the bar at the time of the initial incident but was not involved in the disturbance. It was his opinion that the bar handled the disturbance well in immediately removing the parties involved. However, it was also their opinion, of which I agreed, that perhaps they should have held one-half of those disputing parties inside rather than ejecting all at once. In this case, all parties involved simply continued and escalated this altercation to just behind Methuselah where the stabbing then occurred."

During the investigation that night, two separate detectives reported to Hill that Methuselah was overserving patrons after they observed several parties "very intoxicated and unsteady on their feet."

"One detective observed a female patron holding up another female patron to keep her standing due to her apparent heavy intoxication," he said.

Cohen told The Berkshire Eagle that the injured man was served one drink but he reportedly told the police that he had eight drinks while at the bar.

"It sounds like they did, for the most part, handle the altercation correctly, but the serving to persons intoxicated is very concerning, and we have concerns about whether these cameras do capture events inside and are recorded or they don't," he said.

"That's where we are. We are just here, mostly officially, for the intoxicated patrons I have detected."

Detective Kim Bertelli-Hunt said video obtained from the funeral home showed that the stabbing happened by the back door of Methuselah.

"I followed up with [the victim] the next day to see how he was doing, can he come in for a statement, and that's when he said that he had seen the article online that the owner said that he only had one drink and that that was a lie, that he had eight. He was served eight drinks in there," she said.

The detective added that witnesses the police spoke to were slurring their words, had a strong odor of alcohol, was unsteady on their feet, and admitted to being "wasted." She spoke to six or seven people.

"One good thing I could say is they were clearing the bar as soon as the incident happened," she said.

Martin felt it was unfair that he and Cohen were not given the names of the people interviewed so that they could look back on their tickets to see how many drinks they were served to defend themselves.

"What I'm being asked to be here today to talk about I presumed dealt only with the stabbing and in this letter, I have to strongly object that it seems to me that if you were going to write a report and throw in that, 'I observed a bunch of other people who appeared to be intoxicated, and some woman holding up another woman,' it would be nice to know when that happened, where that happened, and who these people are," he said.

He said the incident did not involve any threats of violence at the bar and that the people were immediately asked to leave, adding that the doorman doesn't have the authority to separate the parties.

"All he has is the authority to ask them to leave. He does not have the authority to detain them and when they left, these were not two gentlemen who were arguing with each other and threatening violence against each other or doing anything that would suggest that anyone needed to call the police," Martin said.

"Neither one of them had been over-served. Neither one of them had made any overt threats towards the other. They were just two guys yelling at each other in a bar who were immediately asked to leave."

Chairman Thomas Campoli commented that the bar has been in business for a long time and has spoken about cameras with the board before, adding "That's a surprise to me."

"I am not here to pick a fight or to create more conflict. I am here to try to resolve the issue. I am also in agreement that we need to think about cameras and video recording. The problem is that the way the cameras are in there now they only show some areas and it's a real problem if you have cameras that show something and not everything," Martin said.

"And so it's a big — it's an issue because what will happen is you have something that's on camera and then the real action is off camera and so it doesn't turn out to be helpful. I don't disagree that in this bar environment that we're in, you probably ought to have to have cameras everywhere because of this very circumstance."

He agreed to reach out to the Police Department to see if they can clarify some of the issues.

Tags: license board,   stabbing,   

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