Hadley officials, Young Men’s Club seeking middle ground on alcohol, events

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 06-15-2023 10:58 AM

HADLEY — Over a period of several years, annual concerts and other events staged at the Hadley Young Men’s Club property at 138 East St. have provided beer and alcoholic beverages to attendees, possibly violating the terms of its club alcohol license.

Despite the concerns first publicized following this spring’s Grass is Greener festival, when the town received numerous complaints about loud noise and disturbances in the neighborhood from the event that was open to the public, town officials and public safety departments are seeking ways to make sure the long-running club can continue to be a an event venue, such as for the coming Country in the Country concert and the Octoberfest and Springfest gatherings for area college students.

On Wednesday, the Select Board began a hearing on modifying, suspending or revoking the club’s license due to alleged violations and based on a recommendation from town attorney Mead, Talerman and Costa.

“The concern was raised by the town prior to the Grass is Greener event about certain aspects of that specific event that were potentially, or could be read to potentially be, in violation of the club license, such as the advertising of tickets to the general public,” attorney Adam Costa said.

Town Administrator Carolyn Brennan said the Young Men’s Club has been holding two to three events a year for a while, drawing 1,500 to 2,500 21-and-over college-age people in the spring and fall, and having various other fundraisers.

Other events have also attracted 21-and-over general admission attendees, even though Jennifer Sanders James, the licensing coordinator for the town, said the club license restricts sales of alcoholic beverages to members of the Young Men’s Club and their guests and to specific areas, such as the clubhouse, the three-sided pavilion and a fenced-in area.

Police, though, have confirmed that events have not been confined and general ticket sales have often allowed greater access to the property. “It is witnessed at each event the consumption of alcohol is around the entire property (and) not contained within the areas specified in the liquor license,” said Police Lt. Mitchell Kuc.

Fire Chief Mike Spanknebel said the Grass is Greener event, for instance, featured satellite beer setups and improper fencing.

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Tom Reidy, an attorney with Bacon Wilson PC who represents the club, said the club has not previously been made aware that its license prohibited such activities.

“They didn’t know it was limited,” Reidy said. “They’re a little bit surprised to call me to be here tonight to have this discussion.”

Reidy said the club has long supported the community through its fundraisers, and that a modified license may be in order. “The Young Men’s Club has been open [with] transparent communication. I mean they try,” Reidy said.

Police Chief Michael Mason told the board that the club license is restrictive and not open-ended to allow big events.

“Tickets are being sold to pretty significant, excellent events that they run to general public members.,” Mason said. “These are not members of the club, these are not guests of the members of the club, they are sold to the general public.”

Mason suggested having club members, Select Board members and public safetyofficials talk about a compromise

“We are willing to work things out,” Mason said.

“Set regulations for the future, make modifications to their license, so that there’s better communication, the town knows they have rules set, the club knows what the rules are, everyone follows them, nobody dies, everyone wins.” Mason said.

Select Board members Randy Izer and Jane Nevinsmith will meet with the club members and public safety officials to bring forward a plan for a July 5 meeting.

Costa said the club may need an application to revise the license or to seek a different license, though both will require a process authorized by the state.

Meanwhile, another meeting is expected to be held to focus on the noise, litter and traffic associated with the Grass is Greener event. That will take place as part of the Select Board’s meeting June 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Brennan said those aspects couldn’t be incorporated into the license hearing. “We did have to do this as a separate hearing specific to the alcohol license,” Brennan said.

While what happens going forward remains uncertain, Reidy said the club has pledged to not have the Grass is Greener event return.

“Grass is Greener is not going to be back,” Reidy said. “That is not an event that will be coming back to the Young Men’s Club property in Hadley.”

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