|Lach's Lounge Shutting Down For Good|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
01:18AM / Tuesday, November 20, 2018
|Ishmael Lytle and Michael Kruger say they've been trying to clean up Lach's Lounge. But it was a little too late as the number of incidents piled up.|
Police Capt. Michael Grady asks for Lach's Lounge's liquor license to be revoked.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Lach's Lounge is shutting down after three troubling years with violence.
The bar on Fenn Street will remain closed following yet another hearing with the Licensing Board.
Owner Michael Kruger told the board that he plans to shut down and the Licensing Board approved an indefinite license suspension to allow him to sell the license to someone else.
"This bar is in the heart of our downtown and in reality, there has been a toxic mixture of alcohol, drugs, and violence in and around that establishment," said Thomas Campoli, who chaired Monday's hearing.
Lach's had become a regular at the Licensing Board meetings starting in 2015 when two patrons got into an argument there and one was ultimately shot a few blocks away. The former bar manager said security would be increased and metal detectors would be used.
But then a few months later, James Dominguez was shot and killed in the parking lot. In September 2017, a 32-year-old man was shot in the parking. There were incidents of overcrowding being cited and overservice. There have been a couple calls regarding shots being fired. Kruger has been in front of the board on multiple occasions fighting to keep his license.
The incidents hadn't stopped. In 2018, police said they've responded multiple times to the bar for disturbances.
Two more incidents arose this year, one on Aug. 19 and one on Sept. 30. In the first, five or six gunshots rang out in the area following the bar's closure, leading officers to find evidence suggesting drug dealing and armed security. In the second, a fight had broken out and there were reports a weapon had been fired inside, though no evidence supports that that occurred.
The Police Department said enough is enough. In October, the city petitioned the Licensing Board to revoke the permit.
Kruger told the Licensing Board on Monday that he doesn't want to reopen Lach's but would like to keep the license to see if something else could be done with it. The Licensing Board agreed, adding a note that a revocation would mean the license goes back to the state and can't be issued to another entity.
"I'm doing this because not only can you recoup some from the license but the city will not lose a license," said Richard Stockwell.
Lytle and Kruger defended themselves against the most recent charges — the Police Department's complaints regarding those events can be read here.
Lytle said when he took over management of the bar about a year ago, he did hire additional security. He said it was being headed by a local mechanic, who works for the city, and has no criminal record or owns a firearm. The man is also a member of the Mass Destruction motorcycle club and other club members were later brought in to help on the night of Aug. 19 when the first incident occurred.
Those members are accused of not using the metal detectors, drinking outside of the bar while on duty, and carrying firearms. However, Lytle said those providing security are given two drinks a night, and no liquor. He said only one member of the club carried a firearm, and that one club member was fully licensed to do so. Lytle said he was unaware that man was carrying that evening.
Police say that man told officers that he always carries the gun while he is providing security.
After close that night, Lytle said he saw some patrons hanging around the parking lot. He called Police and officers responded just in case there would be a disturbance. Lytle has called for officers on multiple occasions since taking over management.
"Nothing was going on inside, the reason I called was because there were people waiting outside," he said.
That is when somebody fired off multiple shots at others in the parking lot. Lytle said he stayed until 3:30 in the morning that night helping officers find the shells and providinged video footage from the bar.
As for drug dealing, Lytle said he was unaware of it. The video the police showed of a deal in a fenced in smoking area in the rear of the property and Lytle responded saying that it happened "behind a door at night that I wasn't at."
As for drinking in that area, Lytle took blame saying that it wasn't pointed out by the Licensing Board during an earlier issue with overcrowding, when photos were shown of people drinking outside, that the outside area was not part of the license. He said that was his fault for not making sure that area was covered.
He also took the blame for security not wanding patrons on their way in, saying he provides the metal detectors to security but "that falls on my shoulders if they do not." Kruger said those providing security are using them and the Police Department's assertion that patrons were not wanded is incorrect.
Lytle continued to say he has limited tolerance for people who cause issues. He said he bans people from the bar if they misbehave even once.
"You get one chance and goodbye," he said. "I am there during the week and I'm not shy about telling you to leave."
Lytle's efforts may have been a little too late. When he took over management, he promised to work closely with police. And officers noted that he had been the one to call for extra patrols on a number of instances — though not all.
But, the issues haven't stopped. Kruger said a particular reason he wants to retain the license is so that Lytle could possibly do something elsewhere.
"I'm not reopening anyway. I just want to get my license back so Ishmael and I can do something different with it," Kruger said.
The city agreed with the plan to close Lach's Lounge but allow Kruger to sell the license. Kruger said he has already spoken with three different parties interested in it. The resolution was also agreeable to Downtown Pittsfield Inc., which was prepared to urge the Licensing Board to revoke it.
"I think you've come up with a very positive resolution. Our view has been that the bar cannot continue to operate," said President Jesse Cook-Dubin.