Delay in obtaining liquor licenses will force Popcorn Noir and The Hideaway in Easthampton to shut down for winter
KEVIN GUTTING Kristen Davis and Tom Doherty have opened an admission-free theater, 'Popcorn Noir' Purchase photo reprints »
EASTHAMPTON — With seasonal liquor licenses due to expire next month, and full-year licenses not yet approved, owners of Popcorn Noir and The Hideaway say they will shut down for the winter.
Popcorn Noir’s closing is not a finale but an intermission, according to co-owner and head chef Kristen Davis, who said the restaurant, bar and entertainment venue will reopen April 1, when it will be able to serve liquor again.
Popcorn Noir, which opened in October 2011, has a seasonal license that allows it to sell alcohol from April 1 and Jan. 15.
The seasonal license became necessary after Easthampton’s last available full-year license was procured by the Glory of India restaurant in March.
Davis said she has applied for an “above quota” license from the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission that would allow Popcorn Noir to serve alcohol year-round. It seems likely to be approved by the state Legislature, she said.
However, Davis said, the local process was fraught with rescheduled and cancelled meetings that delayed the application process.
With no set date when that above-quota license may be approved, Davis said she and co-owner Tom Doherty made the decision to temporarily shut down.
Although Popcorn Noir had a seasonal license when it first opened, Davis said it cannot continue to operate without a year-round license because overhead costs have increased.
Davis said alcohol sales account for about 35 percent of the restaurant’s income, and the restriction on alcohol sales would come at a time when restaurant sales in general go down 30 to 40 percent.
Davis said that math would mean a revenue drop of 60 to 75 percent “every day, every week, for twelve weeks,” if Popcorn Noir were to remain open without alcohol sales.
That drop would also affect the wait staff who earn a large part of their income from tips. Davis said Popcorn Noir has a staff of 12 besides herself and Doherty, all of whom will likely have to be laid off until April.
In a prepared statement Davis said, “We are ... grateful for those who have supported our efforts. That said, it is frustrating that the months of opposition to our business has had some very real and dire consequences for us, our staff, and our patrons.”
Davis said there may be parts of the business that don’t involve alcohol and may be able to be run on a limited basis during the hiatus, including Sunday brunches and daytime movies for children and their families.
Popcorn Noir won’t be the only outlet stung by lack of licenses.
Riff’s Joint co-owner Jeff Cahill said he was disappointed but not surprised that the above-quota licenses will not arrive in time for him to keep serving alcohol at The Hideaway, the new bar he opened adjacent to Riff’s Joint in November.
He said the licenses were approved by a state subcommittee, but still need to be voted on by the Legislature and signed by the governor before the ABCC can issue them.
Owners of both establishments will have to go before the city’s Licensing Board again before the licenses are officially theirs.
“We’ll have to close the bar until the license comes in,” Cahill said. “We have no way of knowing when that will be, but we’ll open the next day.”
Although the restaurant part of Riff’s Joint will remain open, he said closing The Hideaway will mean laying off seven staff members and losing the $5,000 a week that the bar brings in. “The bar’s been doing great,” he said.
Davis said she may consider re-opening if a license is issued before April 1.
Without a firm date, though, Davis said she and Doherty will take the time to concentrate on improving the business.
“Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward,” she said.
Staff writer Rebecca Everett contributed to this story. Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.