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New liquor licenses arriving in Easthampton

The owners of Riff’s Joint and adjacent bar The Hideaway sighed with relief when Mayor Michael A. Tautznik delivered their year-round liquor license to them Jan. 14. They had been prepared to close down their new bar, possibly until April, because it only had a seasonal license, but the efforts of local and state officials expedited their application for a full liquor license.

Popcorn Noir, a theater and restaurant on Cottage Street that also went through the licensing process, will be closed until around Feb. 1, but its owners said that is better than the 2½-month closure they had anticipated.

The seasonal liquor licenses at both businesses meant that they were prohibited from serving alcohol from Jan. 15 to April 1, prompting the owners to seek year-round licenses. Because the licenses exceed the city’s quota of 17, they require a lengthier application and approval process. The owners of Riff’s Joint and Popcorn Noir thought they would have to close Jan. 15 while they waited for the licenses to be approved.

Jeffrey Cahill, co-owner of The Hideaway, said he was grateful that officials helped speed up the process so his business could avoid closing.

“It’s really important not to close because we have a lot of regulars now, and it’s important to keep that continuity,” he said. Closing also would have meant about $5,000 a week in lost bar revenue, he said.

Help from legislators

Cahill said State Rep. John W. Scibak, D-South Hadley, and Sen. Michael R. Knapik, R-Westfield, were instrumental in getting the license application approved quickly by the Legislature, the governor, the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission and other state agencies.

Cahill and Richard Lyman, the other co-owner of Riff’s Joint, opened the small bar adjacent to their restaurant in November. The businesses are located in the Eastworks Building on Pleasant Street.

“It really adds to the social aspect of the restaurant,” Cahill said of the bar, which is the first he and his partner have owned.

In addition to offering the full Riff’s Joint menu, the bar serves craft beer, wine and cocktails made with fresh ingredients. The dark room has rustic decor, with a single television that typically is tuned to sports. Cahill said The Hideaway expects to offer acoustic music performances soon.

The Hideaway got its license about two weeks ahead of Popcorn Noir because Cahill and Lyman arranged to get on the agenda of the Licensing Board’s monthly meeting on Jan. 2. Popcorn Noir co-owner Kristen Davis, whose request was approved at a Jan. 16 meeting, said she expects the state agencies to sign off on it in time for Popcorn Noir to reopen Feb. 1.

“Rep. Scibak has been fantastic with this, answering every question we have,” she said. “We’re definitely looking forward to focusing on the aspects of our business that we should have been all along, without this distraction.”

$7,000 to artists

The Easthampton Cultural Council this month awarded 14 grants totaling just over $7,000 to local artists, organizations and institutions that proposed various arts and cultural projects in the coming year.

The grants, which in Easthampton ranged in amounts from $150 to $2,000, are funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council but distributed by the local council.

Among the projects that received the state funding is “Art in the Orchard,” a sculpture exhibit that the cultural council also funded in 2011. That summer, over 4,000 visitors wandered through Park Hill Orchard, viewing sculptures created by 16 artists from around the region.

Other cultural programs that were funded in Easthampton include theater and musical performances, a photography program for teenagers, and a historical recreation of ice harvesting on Nashawannuck Pond.

According to a press release from the council, the recipients are the Nashawannuck Pond Steering Committee, Emily Williston Memorial Library, Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School, Youth Action Coalition, Lyell Castonguay, Seth Lepore, Carolyn Clayton, Iroko Nuevo, Jill Lewis, John Root, Elizabeth Macduffie and Mark Alan Miller and Maggie Nowinski and David Poppie.

For more information on each project visit www.mass-culture.org/Easthampton.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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