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Greenfield bar denied request to stay open later

GREENFIELD — The town’s licensing commissioners are standing firm on their decision to deny a local bar’s request to stay open an hour later than the town’s bylaws allow.

Maureen Johnson, owner of the Drop Zone on Fiske Avenue, had applied to the commission a couple of months ago, asking it to allow her bar to stay open until 2 a.m. The commission voted “no” at that time, and this week stayed with that decision.

Johnson’s husband, Arthur Johnson, who is not on the bar’s operating license but helps her run it, said the later closing would help the bar financially. He said he sees no reason for the commission to deny the request.

“We do what we are supposed to do and run a clean bar,” he said.

The Johnsons took back the Fiske Avenue bar and renamed it Drop Zone, as it was named years ago when the Johnsons owned it, when the man who had recently been managing it as “Easy Street” was charged with selling cocaine there.

Johnson said because of that and other incidents, many of which have happened in nearby parking lots, the bar has gotten a “bad rap” and continues to do so.

“Someone fights in the municipal parking lot above us and the bar’s name is in the police logs,” he said. “Sometimes none of the people involved have even stepped foot in our bar that night.”

In the end, the commission did not take another vote or rescind its first one, but stuck with its earlier decision to deny Johnson’s request.

Board Chairman William B. Allen said the commission listened to the Johnsons, as well as local police, before making its decision.

“Police are against this,” said Allen. “And after a lot of discussion, so is the commission.”

Greenfield police did not respond this week when asked to comment.

Allen said no other bar in town is allowed to stay open until 2 a.m. He said the commission does give special permission to all bars each year to stay open until 2 a.m. to usher in the New Year, but that is the only time.

“Otherwise, they are all open until 1 — it’s uniform,” said Allen. “They all seem fine with it. The (Johnsons) are the only ones who have requested a later permanent closing since I’ve been on the board.”

Arthur Johnson, who is also upset with the commission because he believes it “turned a blind eye” and allowed another local bar to have entertainment for the past four years without obtaining an entertainment license, said he will take his complaint to the state Ethics Commission, which will not talk about or confirm a case before it has been decided.

Johnson said Taylor’s Tavern on Main Street had been operating without an entertainment license for four years and has taken business from his wife’s bar, causing a hardship. When Johnson brought it to the commission’s attention, Taylor’s was given a temporary license and this week the commission granted it a permanent one.

Johnson said he believes the commission just didn’t want to pay attention.

Allen said the commission had voted to give Taylor’s an entertainment license four years ago, when the owner requested one, but the paperwork had “slipped through the cracks.”

Since then, Taylor’s has been inspected and has met the requirements for an entertainment license.

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