By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – The project manager for the effort to re-open the Skyplex entertainment center at Stearns Square has said that the prospective owner Robin Herrera will appeal the local decision to deny a new license to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission in Boston.
Wilfredo Lopez told reporters after the unanimous decision by the Board of License Commissioners that he “knew this would happen.”
Lopez added the new incarnation of the bar “would have brought positive entertainment into the city” and attracted “young professionals.”
Lopez blamed the remarks made by Carol Costa, the president of the Armory Quadrangle Civic Association and others who were not in favor of the license being granted to Herrera.
“They have power beyond what you believe,” he said of the neighborhood group.
Lopez was the spokesperson for the application presentation on Jan. 23.
Board Chair Peter Sygnator said the reasons for the board’s decision included consideration of the size of the building – the capacity is set for 1,067 people – the noise that would be generated by music on the building’s roof deck; the traffic impact downtown of at least 500 cars; and the number of the existing licenses within the area.
The meeting with the board came after the club staff met with the neighborhood association twice, a group of city departments, including police and fire, and with the Planning Board.
Lopez offered that “voluntary restrictions” should be put on the license such as a closing its doors at 1 a.m., all music would be in-doors, the club would prosecute trespassers and the club’s management would meet with police every 14 days.
Lopez said the club would be opened seven days a week with one section designed as a pub with food service, while the other parts of the building open Thursday through Sunday for deejays, live music and dancing.
During the presentation, Lopez fielded a number of questions from the license commissioners. One concerned the name of the business – it was listed in the application as Skyplex, but Lopez said it might be changed to “Club Venue.”
Another issue arose over the use of the roof deck. At first the board was told there would be no music on the roof, but then the representatives said there could be music presented on the roof.
The proposed manager of record, Michael Grant, said that he has had experience managing fast food restaurants, but has not managed alcohol service. He said his principal experience was in staging entertainment events.
Discussion also centered on the club’s proposed security plan that included a system of surveillance cameras, the hiring of four off-duty Springfield police officers and the use of 34 private security guards. Lopez said that Police Commissioner William Fitchet had approved the plan, although he had no written document to confirm that statement. One of the police officers attending the meeting contacted Fitchet and said the commissioner had not signed off on the plan.
There was another exchange concerning the budget to renovate and upgrade the facility. Listed in the presentation was a budget of $33,000, which was questioned as being adequate by Sygnator. Lopez said the owner had greater resources but “didn’t feel comfortable” sharing that information. Sygnator replied it was required.
Costa said the neighborhood group did not vote on whether to not to endorse the plan until it had met with the representatives twice. She said that at first the idea of re-opening the club focused on it being more of a restaurant than a bar.
After the second meeting the civic association asked for a revised application to review but never received one.
Because of the size of the building, she said, “Potential uses should not be treated lightly.”