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Pittsfield Licensing Board OKs Liquor Licenses for Two New Eateries
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
04:07AM / Tuesday, May 24, 2022
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The former Portsmitt's Lakeway is being reopened as a barbecue joint.

The former Papa Gino's on Merrill Road closed after nearly a half-century in business. The location will reopen as a Mexican restaurant.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Two new restaurants are on the horizon for the city.

The Licensing Board on Monday approved the transfer of a seven-day all-alcohol license from Portsmitt's Lakeway Restaurant to Old Man Jeff's, which will be run by Jeffrey Yeager, the former assistant vice president of planning and reporting at Guardian Life Insurance Co.

The board also approved a seasonal all-alcohol restaurant license application for El Habanero Mexican Grill, which plans to open in the former Papa Gino's on Merrill Road.

In his retirement, Yeager has dedicated himself to becoming a pitmaster and plans to open a barbecue establishment at the shuttered eatery on Peck's Road. Portsmitt's closed in November 2020, citing financial pressures from the pandemic.

"I was responsible for operations at Guardian Life for 30 years, retired, hit the road, the BBQ trail, did competition barbecue for two years studying to some of the top pitmasters in the country, kind of did that for a little while and I can't cook so much food for myself," he said, adding that he is excited because he has always wanted to run a barbecue restaurant.

Yeager said he would like to initially focus on "power hours," or lunches and early dinners. The board approved the eatery's operating hours from noon to 11 p.m., though he doesn't plan to be open that late.

"I just want to say we've been through this pandemic, and there's been several businesses that have come before us and we tried to work with them to come to an opportunity like this, so I'm sure that there's a lot of people involved in this that are pleased that this is moving forward," board member Kathy Amuso said.

"So it is nice to see this because we've been talking about this business and a couple of others and pandemic hit it hard and it's gonna be nice to see this open and moving forward."

Attorney William Martin explained that Portsmitt's liquor license was the subject of a lien with Pittsfield Cooperative Bank and taken into possession by the bank. 

A negotiation was made so that the license can be transferred from its original entity to Yeager because it is the cleaner way to do it, Martin said.

The purchase-and-sale agreement for the property calls for the closing to occur after the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission's approval of the transfer, though the real estate purchase may close earlier once all of the commission's questions are answered so it can be prepared for opening.

Martin added that Yeager and his spouse are committed to running the restaurant as a passion and with their energy and unique approach, he feels it will be very successful.

Over on Merrill Road, Armando Chaires plans to open El Habanero Mexican Grill in the former Papa Gino's, which closed in October of last year after almost 50 years in business.

Chaires explained that he has owned a couple of restaurants before, one being Taste of Mexico in Albany, N.Y. He applied for a liquor license to serve beverages such as beer, wine, and margaritas with his food.

The board approved the establishment's operating hours from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

In other news, the board also suggested that Parkside restaurant on West Housatonic Street has the last call at 11 p.m. and has all patrons out of the establishment by 11:30 p.m. after there were three disturbances throughout April and May.

Owner Roberta Casella, whose family has owned the bar for about 40 years, was exasperated by the incidents of violence and agreed to the suggestion.

He said he doesn't want to cap the hours so early, as he is permitted to be open until 2 a.m., but wants to find a solution to remedy the unruly behavior of patrons.

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