|License Suspension for Hermann's Extended|
|By Joe Durwin, Pittsfield Correspondent|
01:41PM / Monday, July 16, 2012
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A temporary license suspension has been continued until late August for a troubled Lyman Street bar authorities say acted as the hub of a large-scale drug conspiracy, following additional investigation details supplied by the Pittsfield Police Department on Friday.
Hermann Alexander's, located at 24 Lyman St., was issued a 60-day license suspension in mid-May following a raid by local law enforcement on April 27. Though the raid uncovered no drugs at the bar, police allege that considerable cocaine trafficking took place within the establishment with full knowledge of its owner, Mitchell Grossjung.
According to police Lt. Michael Grady, testimony gathered from bar employees arrested separately as part of the investigation indicates that illicit drug transactions took place at a rate as high as 50 customers per night.
"We fully expect Mitchell Grossjung to be charged with conspiracy to violate drug laws," said Grady, but added that the investigation is ongoing and no indictment on drug charges has yet been sought. (Grossjung is facing an illegal gambling charge in connection with the raid.)
Grady said an employee questioned in connection with the investigation reported that Grossjung "had full knowledge of all the activity taking place in the bar," and alleged Grossjung received free cocaine for allowing it to be dealt within the bar.
The owner has publicly denied he had direct involvement or any awareness of illicit drug activity taking place, but Grady stated that Grossjung previously admitted to police that he "turned a blind eye" to illegal trafficking within the bar.
Attorney Peter Sullivan, representing the owner, said Grossjung plans several changes to the bar if the license is reinstated, including being present during all hours of operation, improving the appearance and atmosphere, and adding events that would attract a different clientele to the venue.
"He's confident that this will deter people who are involved with the drug trade from going to this location because it will no longer be a place where they can 'hide out' and engage in that type of criminal activity," said Sullivan.
"Based on what I've heard today, the place is an open-air drug market, where the sale of alcohol is incidental to the main business," said board member Thomas Campoli.
The Licensing Board pressed for an expected timetable for completion of the ongoing investigation. Grady declined to guarantee a date, but expects that the gathered evidence will be turned over to the district attorney's office by the end of this week, and should be prepared to update the board more definitively on any new charges facing Grossjung by its next meeting on Aug. 20.
Grossjung also faces possible charges from the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, before which he is expected to attend a hearing on July 31.
Sullivan cautioned against a situation in which a suspension would be extended indefinitely
"This has been an establishment that's just been troubled," said board Chairman Carmen Massimiano.
"We continue to support and encourage him to explore the transfer of the license or the sale of the license as well, so he doesn't have to lose it, so he can actually walk away from this failed business venture with something," said board member Dana Doyle.
"Even if a decision to sell the license was made, at this point the license is very unmarketable, just because of the nature of the current suspension, and the current status of the bar," Sullivan told the board.
Under Massachusetts law, Grossjung may seek to sell the license owned by Jakelynn Inc., doing business as Hermann Alexander's, which would allow it to remain in use by a different owner following the end of the suspension. Permanent revocation of the license by the board could result in the loss of that license's use in the city.
In other business:
• The board granted a transfer of license from the Panda Inn Corp. to Sabura Hibachi Steakhouse, which operates the new Japanese restaurant Koto at 795 Dalton Ave.
• The meeting also marked the return of board Vice Chairman Albert Pisani, who was informed by the mayor's office he would not be able to continue to serve on the board in May because of what City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan believed was a legal conflict of interest. Pisani's removal from the board was a matter of heated controversy when it appeared before the City Council, but further legal information provided to the solicitor's office lead to Pisani's reinstatement.