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Two Restaurants Close As Work On Pittsfield Hotel Begins

Jim Levulis

The construction of a boutique hotel touted as a key part of revitalizing downtown Pittsfield, Mass. has caused two neighboring restaurants to close while work is ongoing. The Hotel on North is expected to create 80 construction jobs and 35 full- and part-time jobs when it opens next spring. In the meantime, MadJack’s BBQ and Spice Dragon restaurant have decided to close their doors after work on North St. got started in early September. Jabari Powell owns MadJack’s with his wife Sarah.

“We’re done with the North St. location,” Powell said. “We’re going to move on from there. I think everybody has got their own plans as to what they want to do.”

Powell launched the barbeque joint on Fenn St. in 2010 before moving it to North St. in 2012 where he said business was good with a steady clientele.

“I always kind of assumed that there would be some sort of closure,” Powell said. “I just didn’t see how you could do a huge construction project on the whole building and have it not really affect us.”

Powell says MadJack’s had been looking at a sit-down location at Village Inn in Lenox before closing on North St. He adds the growing catering business hopes to open a kitchen on Route 8 in Lanesborough within the next month. Powell hopes to rehire some of the roughly seven people he will lay off, which typically happens during the winter months. He adds he hopes the hotel is successful.

“Anything that will help bring downtown Pittsfield back I think is a good thing,” said Powell.

Spice Dragon also closed on August 31 after more than four years. It employed roughly 40 people according to The Berkshire Eagle. No one from the restaurant could be reached for comment in time for broadcast, but a posting on its Facebook page told people to stay tuned for its next venture. Owner Tom [Thang] Huynh spoke with WAMC News in February when the hotel’s plans were released.

“I think North St can benefit from it and of course the restaurant is going to benefit from it,” said Huynh.

Hotel on North will offer 45 rooms including conference areas, a skylight atrium, a bar, a revolving door and a marquee sign with “Hotel” spelled out in lights over the entrance. The entrance is slotted to go between the spaces MadJack’s and Spice Dragon were leasing from real estate company MM&D. Manager Lauri Tierney says she met with the restaurant owners and explained demolition work would create noise, dust and take up parking spaces. 

“We’ve had our demolition permit for some time, but we talked with them and we all decided that it would be a very good idea for them to be able to finish out their busy season,” Tierney said. “We were all in agreement that that was a good idea, finish out the summer and reassess the future.”

Hotel on North will operated by Main Street Hospitality Group, the same company that runs Berkshire County’s most famous hotel, the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge and the Porches Inn in North Adams. With renovations yet to start on the 68,000-square foot $11 million project, Tierney says what the building will offer is still up in the air.

“We will have at least one restaurant,” Tierney said. “Whether or not we have two, I don’t know.”

Tierney adds the hotel needs to open in May in time for the area’s annual wave of summer tourists to make the venture work.

June Roy-Martin is the vice president of member services for the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. She says overall, area businesses see a second option for a downtown stay in addition to the Crowne Plaza as a positive thing for recruiting workers and economic development.

“You need to have an opportunity for work to happen,” Roy-Martin said. “This gives them an opportunity to kind of go full throttle on all the construction work there.”

Roy-Martin is hopefully both restaurants will relocate in the Berkshires.

Kristine Hurley, managing director of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., says closing the restaurants also eliminates any unpredicted construction delays.

“We’re looking to the future,” Hurley said. “During this period of time while they’re going through the construction, I think it’s smart on the property’s behalf as well as on the restaurant owners’ to think about their customers during that time. If it makes sense for them to close their doors then that’s what they have to do.”

Tierney says she wants the hotel to benefit everyone in the city.

“I want Pittsfield to be able to reap the benefits from a successful business,” said Tierney.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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