|Board Urges Sale Of Lach's Lounge Liquor License|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
12:27PM / Wednesday, May 22, 2019
|Lach's Lounge owner Michael Kruger voluntarily shut down the bar in November but hasn't found a buyer for his license.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Lach's Lounge is shut down for good and for now, nothing else can take its place.
The Licensing Board previously suspended the bar's liquor license after three years of repeated violent incidents. The board opted to suspend rather than revoke to give the bar's owner Michael Kruger a chance to sell the license. As of Monday, Kruger hasn't found a buyer.
The property owner, Joseph Renzi, purchased a liquor license from the closed Elbow Room with the intent of bringing a new bar or restaurant to the Fenn Street location. But that is stymied because a license is already on the books for Lach's Lounge.
"The buyer of that license who says he intends to move it to that exact location is unable to do so," attorney Thomas Hamel, who represents Berkshire Bank, told the Licensing Board.
The license from the former Elbow Room was auctioned by Berkshire Bank, Renzi paid in full, and the transaction sits in an escrow waiting for resolution.
Kruger said he has only received one offer for it at a price of $10,000, less than the going rate. The city is limited on the number of liquor licenses so the demand should be high but Kruger said he hasn't had much interest in it.
"I'm trying to sell the license, it's not selling," Kruger said. "Nobody wants to do business in Pittsfield."
Should the license be revoked completely, it would not be able to be re-issued because of state limitations. That has led the Licensing Board to give a lot of leeway to owners of closed establishments to sell so the license isn't permanently lost. In the past, owners of licenses were given a significant amount of time to sell the license but should it not sell, the board will revoke it.
In 2016, the Licensing Board revoked the license for the former Debbie Wong's which cannot be re-issued. That had come after setting a deadline that year for it to be sold. Now, the Licensing Board is taking the same tactic. It is giving Kruger until November to sell or it will be revoked. Other businesses may have had more leeway in the past, but those also didn't have possible re-use of a license nipping at its heels.
Kruger has no idea whether that will be enough time.
"How do I know when the next person is going to appear to buy a license?" he said.
In other business, Ponchos has been placed on warning after three late-night arguments spilled onto the streets in the last six months.
The biggest incident was on March 23, at 1:16 in the morning, according to Police Lt. John Soules, when a large fight broke out.
"Officers observed a large crowd in front of the restaurant and several people standing in the roadway. Many of the people in the large crowd were shoving and pushing and yelling," Soules said.
Officers called all units to the scene and broke up numerous fights within the crowd of an estimated 30 to 40 people. Inside, meanwhile, officers found "chairs, bottles, and clothing items scatter throughout the bar floor" and two men being held back from each other. Eventually, peace was restored.
That was the third of the series. Prior to that, on Feb. 2, two women and a man were kicked out of the bar for fighting and on Dec. 29, officers found about eight people pushing and shoving.
"[A doorman] stated several individuals inside were verbally arguing. They were asked to leave. The parties left without incident and began arguing outside on North Street," Soules said of that December incident.
Attorney Mark Brennan, representing Ponchos, said staff had called the police on all three occasions to help control. Regarding the March incident, Brennan said that was a case in which there was a disc jockey playing and the crowd got out of hand. He said Ponchos is not bringing that DJ back and is stopping entertainment earlier than in the past. He added that there were no arrests in any of those three calls.
"At all times he is doing what a responsible business owner would do," Brennan said.
Comparatively to the type of incidents the board dealt with over the years — Chameleons, Johnny's Beach Club, and Lach's Lounge — the incidents were minor and Ponchos has a good track record. The board praised the owner's actions, however, the board doesn't want to see things get out of control. The Licensing Board opted for six-month probation and if there is any issues in that time, then a reduction of hours would be considered.