Opening night at Iron Horse: All systems go, but patrons will need to bring own alcohol while license snafu is sorted out

Jess Wissemann of Hired Hand Signs works on hand lettering the facade of the Iron Horse Music Hall on Friday afternoon prior to its reopening.

Jess Wissemann of Hired Hand Signs works on hand lettering the facade of the Iron Horse Music Hall on Friday afternoon prior to its reopening. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Jess Wissemann of Hired Hand Signs works on hand lettering the facade of the Iron Horse Music Hall on Friday afternoon prior to its reopening.

Jess Wissemann of Hired Hand Signs works on hand lettering the facade of the Iron Horse Music Hall on Friday afternoon prior to its reopening. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Jess Wissemann of Hired Hand Signs works on hand -lettering the facade of the Iron Horse Music Hall on Friday afternoon before its reopening.

Jess Wissemann of Hired Hand Signs works on hand -lettering the facade of the Iron Horse Music Hall on Friday afternoon before its reopening. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Jess Wissemann of Hired Hand Signs works on hand lettering the facade of the Iron Horse Music Hall on Friday afternoon prior to its reopening.

Jess Wissemann of Hired Hand Signs works on hand lettering the facade of the Iron Horse Music Hall on Friday afternoon prior to its reopening. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 05-14-2024 4:56 PM

Modified: 05-15-2024 1:20 PM


NORTHAMPTON — The Iron Horse Music Hall begins its long-anticipated opening of concerts and shows on Wednesday, although its owners are still anxiously awaiting approval from the state on when it may serve alcoholic beverages at its venue.

Despite having acquired the 20 Center St. venue from previous owner Eric Suher eight months ago, nonprofit The Parlor Room has struggled in its pursuit to obtain an all-alcohol liquor license for the Iron Horse because of Suher’s inability to produce a certificate of good standing for the state’s Department of Revenue. That has prevented a transfer of the license already associated with the establishment.

The city’s License Commission, in compensation, awarded The Parlor Room earlier this year one of seven special licenses it received via approval from the state Legislature after having reached its available quota. But Chris Freeman, the executive director of The Parlor Room, said that the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission never approved that license for the Iron Horse.

“They didn’t reject it, but they returned it to us with no action,” Freeman said.

In response, The Parlor Room hired a lawyer, who sent a request for reconsideration to the ABCC. Freeman said that the state commission then conditionally approved the liquor license, but was still waiting for someone from the state’s Department of Revenue to sign off on before it can goes into effect.

Until then, concertgoers at the Iron Horse will have to bring their own alcoholic beverages, although Freeman expressed optimism that the venue could have its license by the end of the week.

“It’s frustrating, but it still feels like we’re turning a corner,” Freeman said. “All of our members and ticket holders will receive a notice, because once we have the license (approved), we will no longer be able to do BYOB.”

The Iron Horse held an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on its performance stage on Monday, with Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra on hand for the grand opening, along with Freeman, Parlor Room President Randy Krotowski, and other members of the nonprofit.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

A groundbreaking anniversary: Northampton couple reflects on lead role in legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts 20 years ago
Rutherford Platt and Barbara Kirchner: ‘Magical thinking’ in downtown Northampton
Around Amherst: High school sleuths point out $2M mistake in town budget
Photos: Welcome to the Iron Horse stage
Area briefs: Free repair event in Northampton; sheep to visit Historic Deerfield; horse ride in Belchertown
Mayor’s budget boosts schools 8.5%: Advocates protest coming job cuts as spending falls short of demands

The reopening of the Iron Horse comes with high anticipation that it could serve as a catalyst for the city’s economy and bring back more of a nightlife scene to Northampton, making the addition of an all-alcohol license more crucial. Another former Suher venue, the Calvin Theater, is also in the works to reopen under The Bowery Presents, a group that also runs venues in New York City and Boston.

The Iron Horse’s premiere show, a jazz concert with musical acts Rachael & Vilray and Taylor Ashton, has already been sold out, with several of its more than 80 booked performances also have already been sold out.

The venue has undergone extensive renovations since the last time it was open to the public, such as an extended greenroom for artists a new HVAC systems and the addition of larger bathrooms. Most of the money for renovations have come from a $750,000 fundraising campaign launched by The Parlor Room.

“The shows are going really great,” Freeman said. “It’s been really fun getting ready to get people in here.”

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.