Suher agrees to reopen five downtown Northampton venues by fall or lose liquor licenses

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 05-18-2023 5:35 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Property magnate Eric Suher has until the end of September to either reopen five downtown entertainment venues or transfer their liquor licenses to a third party before the city revokes the licenses, according to an agreement he reached with the License Commission this week.

The commission had previously revoked Suher’s all-alcohol license for his Pearl Street Nightclub, which has been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in a decision made in February. At that time, the commission also gave Suher until June to reopen two other venues, the Green Room and Iron Horse Music Hall, or their licenses also would be revoked.

Suher had appealed the commission’s decision to the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. A hearing had been scheduled to take place Wednesday regarding the appeal, but it was canceled after Suher withdrew his appeal and the agreement was reached.

Natasha Yakovlev, the chair of the licensing commission, said details of the agreement had been discussed in several executive sessions held by the commission over the last two months, including a special meeting held on May 11.

“The outcome of this agreement is a positive one,” Yakovlev said. “The goal is to have a new license holder to put the licenses to use.”

According to the terms of the agreement, which is dated May 15, the Northampton License Commission agreed to restore Suher’s all-alcohol license for the Pearl Street property, and to suspend any hearings on canceling of any other of Suher’s licenses. In exchange, Suher has until Sept. 29 to either transfer the licenses to a third party or to reopen the venues.

In addition, the agreement requires any third party or Suher to have a certain level of activity at each venue in order for its alcohol license to be deemed fully exercised.

For The Basement, located at 21 Center St., it must be open at a minimum of four nights a week. The Green Room, across the street at 26 Center St., must be open at least six nights a week. The Iron Horse must be open four nights a week, and Calvin Theater and Pearl Street must have a minimum of four to six shows a month.

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If any of these properties fail to meet those requirements by Sept. 29, the alcohol licenses will be deemed canceled by the commission.

Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra said she was glad that a deal has been reached.

“The city’s entertainment venues are vital in promoting the arts, fostering economic growth for local restaurants and retail businesses, attracting tourists, and strengthening community bonds,” she said in a statement. “I’m pleased to hear from the License Commission that the city has negotiated a path forward with Mr. Suher that hopefully results in the resumed operations for the venues in the near future for Northampton.

Pearl Street and the Iron Horse have been closed since March 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Iron Horse at one point had shows booked to return to the location in 2021, although those plans eventually fell through. Suher previously told the commission he expected the Iron Horse to have enough acts to reopen by the fall.

The Green Room, a cocktail bar on Center Street, reopened in August 2021 after closing during the pandemic, but closed again in September 2022. Suher said the closure was due to lack of staff and that he was in the process of hiring a new manager. The Basement has been closed since before the pandemic. The Calvin remains open, but with a limited show schedule.

Suher did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Suher has in recent years faced other legal troubles regarding his properties and management practices. In 2022, he was sued for copyright infringement by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers after failing to purchase a license to play musical works under their ownership. In 2021, he reached an agreement with the state attorney general’s office to pay around $40,000 in restitution fees after a two-year investigation revealed failure to pay wages in a timely manner and denial of paid sick time for employees of his venues.

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

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