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North Adams Commission Keeps Key West Limits; Tables Fiesta Permit
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
06:43PM / Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The restrictions placed on Key West Lounge after a shooting outside the bar in February will remain in place at least until next week. 
The License Commission on Tuesday held a three-month review of the conditions put in place on March 8: the bar had to close by 1 a.m. and had to have a trained doorman on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. 
The commission, with members Rosemari Dickinson and Peter Breen in attendance, agreed to continue the earlier hours until Dec. 31 with a review to occur at that time. But they split on whether to continue making a doorman a requirement of the license and tabled any changes until the third member of the commission, Michael Goodson, could weigh in and break the tie.
A tentative date of Tuesday, July 5, was set. 
Police Sgt. Preston Kelly said the bar had been found in compliance over the past three months. There were 37 calls for service since Feb. 19, but 24 of those were officer compliance checks. Two were outside noise complaints, both made prior to the March 8 hearing, and the rest were also from outside and were not connected to the bar. That included calls for a lost dog, a medical call, an accidental 911 hangup, and a verbal argument in which a patron standing outside the bar was threatened by a woman with a bat.
There were no calls for service inside, he said. 
Key West owners Michael and Laurie Bloom said the bar was often referred to in police calls as a locational reference, not because of anything to do with the bar itself. Laurie Bloom said there would be fights across the street that would called in as being in front of Key West.
"Last week were closed and watch it all this crazy stuff happening across the street that had nothing to do with us. We were long gone," said Michael Bloom.
The Blooms said they always had a doorman on Friday and Saturday nights and one on Thursdays if there was the expectation of a larger crowd. They asked that the requirement for a Thursday doorman be rescinded.
"The burden now is the extra cost with the Thursday's, which a lot of times it's not necessary," said Michael Bloom. "During the past three months, there might have been two busy nights," later adding, "I've been doing this for 38 years, since I was 26 and now I'm 63. This is our business. We don't want to run it into the ground."
Commissioner Rosemari Dickinson agreed that Key West was a landmark location and believed that the Blooms had run it well. She felt that not only the Thursday night doorman but that the Friday and Saturday requirement be lifted as well. 
"I think that they know when they need a door person. I believe everything that Mr. Bloom saying about Thursdays, if he feels it's a holiday or he needs a doorperson or he's having entertainment, he could have the door person," she said. "If he has one on Fridays and Saturdays, which they have typically had for the years when they've been in business, then  he's operating it really in a very fine way."
Commissioner Peter Breen agreed that the Thursday commitment could be lifted but felt that the Friday-Saturday requirement continue as part of the license. 
"We really need to promote businesses but we need the public safety and that incident was tragic," he said. "It was beyond, you know, someone had to be taken home in a car because they were drunk. They'd been taken away because they were shot."
If the bar always had a doorman those days, it shouldn't be a burden to put it on the license, he said. "You don't fix something that's not broken. I think it's a good idea." 
Kelly, however, sided with the Blooms when asked his opinion.
"I would tend to agree with the Blooms," said Kelly. "They've been around longer than I've been doing this job, so I certainly recognize that they understand what's needed."
The commissioners split with Breen only agreeing to the rescind the Thursday doorman and Dickinson not wanting any requirement. The commissioners will ask the police chief to attend the next meeting for his input. 
They both agreed to extend the restriction on closing at 1 a.m. until the end of the year. The bar had been grandfathered under the 2 a.m. closing rules, one of only a few in the city with those hours. However, the Blooms have said their normal closing hours were 1 and that they would stay open on occasion if there were events in the downtown. 
"I believe one o'clock is a decent closing hour, I really do, but that's from where I am and it's not as a punishment," said Dickinson. "It's what I feel that if I were accepting a new license application today, and I'm going to say what the hours are going to be, I probably would end them at one o'clock." 
Breen agreed, saying the bar could request an extension like other entities have done. 
"If there seems to be a late night on that day, It can be planned out and we can look at it here," he said. "We've done it in the past. It's helps everybody out."
The Blooms were obviously frustrated by the end of the meeting, saying they felt they were being singled out. They referenced a three-day suspension for serving someone underage a decade ago but said a private club that had the same violation was not treated the same way.
Laurie Bloom said the tavern has paid to have its servers and doormen take the Training and Intervention Procedures for Servers in person even though it is not required by the state. 
"We've always had our servers TIPS certified," said Laurie Bloom. "I can state a lot of instances where we're proactive. ...
"What happened that night? It was terrible. You know, you just feel sick to your stomach when you hear something like that. Stuff does happen, it's not just at Key West."
The Blooms weren't the only ones frustrated. Peter Oleskiewicz, owner of Desperado's, left without a one-day license for the Eagle Street Beach Party and Fiesta on July 16.
The fiesta part of the annual event is the adult portion when attendees can purchase margaritas outside Desperado's. The fiesta's been held since 2009, with exception of the past two pandemic years. 
Breen raised the issue of the city's open-container law and insurance coverage. He thought if any patrons walked out onto the closed off Eagle Street with a drink they would be in violation of the ordinance. When asked if the police would enforce the ordinance, Kelly said yes. 
"This is where you'll kill another day's business for another operator in the town. That's my bread and butter to catch up on winter debt," Oleskiewicz said. "So now I'm gonna be confined to a little 30 square foot area in front of my business when it's been happening for years."
He said he could easily add the city on his insurance because he had done it before when there was a party in the pocket park on Eagle. He also pointed out that beer is being sold at SteepleCats games at Joe Wolfe, also a public property.
Breen said the issue of outside service had been brought up because of the pandemic. 
"It came up all over the state. If people were going to go on city property, they had be insured and they gotta be visual from the restaurant," he said. "So we're disciplined by the things that have come up in the last year."
Oleskiewicz said he'd just cancel the fiesta but Dickinson asked him to get an opinion from the city solicitor. The issue had not been brought up before but now Breen had opened it, "that's a door we have to investigate," she said.
"I'm not comfortable making a decision without the city solicitor's input on that," she said. "We can table this and let's get an opinion and then we'll move on."
Oleskiewicz, also a city councilor, later said mayor would get an opinion from the city solicitor. 
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