|Pittsfield Licensing Board Cuts Crowne Plaza Bar Hours|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
12:36AM / Tuesday, March 07, 2017
|Attorney Joseph Colonna explained the Crowne Plaza's side of the story on Monday.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Licensing Board opted to close the bars at the Crowne Plaza early for the next two weeks after an incident of overserving.
Both bars at the downtown hotel will need to have last call at 11:30 p.m. with the patrons being out by midnight. That is also extended to any events at the hotel. The sanction was imposed as punishment for an incident on Dec. 23 that led to the arrest of a reportedly intoxicated man.
According to a report submitted to the Licensing Board by Police Lt. Michael Grady, police arrested a severely drunk individual at the end of the event that night. According to the report, the 23-year-old man got into an argument with police, which included officers pulling a drink from his hand. The confrontation spilled into the hallway and police called for backup because there were multiple people making "derogatory remarks" toward the officers.
The report adds that officers had also witnessed another man passed out at the event from being overserved. The event was put on by a local disc jockey, selling tickets for the holiday party in the ballroom dubbed Santa Claus is Coming to Crowne.
Attorney Joseph Colonna, representing the Crowne Plaza, refuted the story somewhat saying that the report makes the incident seem much more dramatic than it actually was. He said the Crowne had taken multiple steps to ensure security.
"There was no undue crowd. There was no interaction between police and the crowd like resisting arrest," Colonna said.
Colonna's presentation of events unfolds differently from the officers. He said he performed multiple interviews with staff and reviewed security tape from the lobby. The night was slow, he said, and the arrest happened at the very end of the evening. The bartenders noticed nobody being overserved and security had "swept" the area just moments before the arrest, noticing nothing out of the ordinary.
He said the ballroom holds some 428 people and only 250 tickets were sold, and bartenders estimate there were only 150 people there. The plaza was anticipating a busier night and have five bartenders on — all of them TIPS trained.
The Crowne Plaza had also required the event organizer to hire two police officers to provide additional security and three staff security members were on hand, Colonna said. All of that was to show that the Crowne Plaza had taken plenty of precaution ahead of time.
Further, the Crowne Plaza provided discounted rates to patrons who wanted to book a room to stay overnight — and the man who was arrested reportedly had a room booked.
"He did have a room at the Crowne Plaza and he was supposed to stay there that night," Colonna said, adding uncertainty to whether or not the man was drinking in the ballroom or was drinking in a room.
Toward the end of the night, officers asked the event organizer if he wanted to continue the party or save some money by ending early, and he chose to end early. The lights came on and the ballroom began to empty. That's when the incident began in the ballroom.
One of the staff members heard a drink drop and saw some type of interaction between police and the man, but none of the other staff members noticed it. The rest of the staff was cleaning and picking up after a day of work.
That staff member reported that she saw the man proceed down the hall and that he was arrested outside of the bar known as One West. Police then took the man down the elevator.
Colonna said he reviewed the tape from the lobby and he can see hotel security go up the stairs and then shortly after return to the office. Then additional police officers had come in through the door — saying the incident must have escalated quickly because security didn't notice anything during that sweep.
It wasn't until the next day that General Manager Charles Burnick heard about the incident. He received a call from the arrested man asking for surveillance footage, claiming he was wrongfully arrested, and asking for a refund.
Burnick checked with security and there were no reports of any incidents.
Three weeks later, Lt. Grady called Burnick about answering to the Licensing Board. Burnick came before the board before saying he had no information about it.
Board member Richard Stockwell, however, says the incident must have been bigger than Colonna says or else police would never have called for back up to arrest one individual.
"There had to be a reason for these two police officers to have to call for backup," Stockwell said, later adding, "I believe there was overpouring, overserving, to some of the customers that led to the arrest. I believe something happened that led to Police officers to call for backup."
The board's purview is to make sure licensed establishments are no breaking laws, which include serving anyone who is intoxicated.
Member Thomas Campoli said, "it sounds from the police standpoint, this guy who they had to deal with was drunk."
Plus there was the other report of a man being "passed out" at the bar and unable to speak. Security staff objected to the second report saying there was a person who had placed his head down on a table and was promptly asked to leave. That man allegedly was not drunk and got up and walked out, security said.
"Our job is to determine whether or not there was an overservice of alcohol," Campoli said.
The board determined that the establishment was guilty of overserving and had not been managing the situation properly. Board member Diane Pero said because there was a possibility of patrons drinking in the hotel rooms, security and bar management should have had a heightened awareness of intoxication.
"I'm concerned management wasn't more on top of the situation," Pero said.
The Crowne Plaza has a clean record with the Licensing Board, at least in recent years, and Campoli said there have been few complaints about management. Nonetheless, the board determined a violation had occurred and took Stockwell's suggestion to force an early closure.
"I think there has to be something," Stockwell said. "I think it is more serious than the Crowne plaza leads us to believe."
The penalty isn't going to be that financially impactful. Burnick says he doesn't have any events scheduled to go past midnight coming up and the Underground, one of the hotel bars, has been closed recently for cleaning and preparing for the summer. The real impact will come from a customer service standpoint when hotel guests are denied the ability to have a drink at the end of the evening.