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Adams Board Of Health Give Cigar Lounge Variance

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — In an attempt to correct internal errors within the department, the Board of Health issued Original Seed Cigar and Lounge a 90-day permit process extension.
John and Tracy Sheerin plan to open a cigar lounge and humidor at the former Rascal’s on North Summer Street. The board on Wednesday voted to extend the shot clock on their permit process to March 31, giving them time to properly apply for the permit the town mistakenly gave them in October.
“I think 90 days is safe for another review,” new Code Enforcement Officer Mark Blaisdell said. “We are in the winter season and the state will only issue a permit when these conditions are met.”
Blaisdell went through a long list of certifications, sign offs, and permits the two need to receive on the state level. These permits are required before the town can inspect the property — one of the final steps before the business can open.
But much of this did not happen before a conditional permit was issued by the town by the former code enforcement officer who retired earlier this year.
“They were given those assurances and given a conditional permit but we have to operate within the scope of the law,” Blaisdell said. “We can not lawfully issue a permit unless these requirements are met so I don’t think we should issue a 2020 permit until all these conditions are met.”
Tracy Sheerin said when they went to pick up their permit, Blaisdell had become the new code enforcement officer and had picked up on some irregularities he said was left by his predecessor.
“We applied and conformed to all regulations and everything that was asked of us under the previous code enforcement officer,” she said. “Under the new code enforcement officer he found areas of concern and he wanted to make the process right. We have agreed to work with the town … We want to comply, realizing we were already granted something.”
There was an implication that the board approved the permit as well but members did not recall this. Member David Rhoads continued to ask questions trying to piece together the past few months.
“I am not trying to be a pain I am just trying to fill in my own ignorance of what’s happened over the process,” he said. “A lot of things fell through the cracks and I think we all feel badly about that.”
Town Administrator Jay Green said the town does not want to prohibit the Sheerins from opening but that it does need to obey the law.
“What you see here is the board trying to struggle with the attempt to keep the Sheerins on a path on course without obstruction while meeting the tenants of the law,” he said. “Mark as thorough as he is we would have been having some of these conversations up front.”
Tracy said they do not yet own the building and want more assurances before they purchase the building. She said this puts them in an odd position when it comes to the inspections but noted the two want to do things right and work with the town.
“We realize the inspections need to happen but we are not willing to invest in the town if we aren’t guaranteed,” she said. “I understand if something does fail we would have to fix it before we can open but we are not willing to purchase the building if we do not have the permit because that would make every purchase that we made null and void.”
Blaisdell said the Sheerins are well on their way in the state process but still have a few more milestones to hit before the town can conduct a final inspection. He did say they have Zoning Board approval.
He said the issued permit would expire at the end of the year setting up a smooth transition into a 2020 correctly issued permit.
The board was still left a bit confused and really didn’t know what to do next. Member Peter Hoyt and Rhoads said they heard an inspection was already conducted by the town.
Green said the building inspector only surveyed the building to inform the Sheerins if what they wanted to do was even possible and what would have to happen to bring it into compliance. Green said the inspector felt the project was possible but the inspection does not count. He said this final inspection would have to take place once the property is properly outfitted.
The board felt the need to make some sort of movement in the form of a motion but did not know how. Rhoads felt the need to make some sort of statement declaring that they in no way wanted to inhibit the Sheerins.
“The last thing I want to do is to sit here and say that I am going to say no,” he said. “Can we take a non-blocking vote?”
Blaisdell said they really can’t make any approval at this time without the inspection and the most sensible action would be to approve a variance giving the Sheerins 90 days to complete the state permitting process. He said typically they would need to have everything wrapped up in 30 days, which is not going to happen.
Tracy still had questions about the process and asked for more assurances. She did not want to go through the entire process only to be shut down by the board or town.
Blaisdell said this is unlikely and if they receive state approval the town is pretty much obligated to issue the permit.
“As long as you do what is on the list the law will not allow the board to dismiss the plan unless there is good cause not to approve it,” he said. “If the state issues the licence there is no good case for us not to.”
Before the vote the board dug into the draft operations plan. They asked John to go into a bit more detail about smoking in the lounge — specifically if patrons could bring their own cigars in.
John Sheerin said patrons who buy a cigar in the shop are welcome to smoke that cigar in the lounge. He said outside cigars cannot be smoked in the lounge unless the patron is a locker holder.
“People that pay a rental fee for a humidified locker and keep cigars in the shop and if they choose to bring an outside cigar in they can smoke it because they paid a fee,” he said. “It is like in a wine bar they have a corking fee … we call it a cutting fee. I won’t be actually cutting your cigar but I am going to charge you for a locker to be able to smoke them here.”
He said there may be cigar brands that he does not carry that locker holders want to bring back to their hometown lounge but no one is walking in with cheap convenience store cigars.
“If you walk in with a $2 Philly Blunt that you picked up at a convenience store … that is not going to happen,” he said. “You don’t want to bring sand to the beach.”
The board asked about cigarette sales, which the Sheerins are pursuing permitting for. John said they will not be selling cigarettes but cigarillos, which fall under the cigarette umbrella.
As for flavored cigars, John said he had no intention of selling chemically, unnaturally altered cigars.
He said they do plan to sell premium infused cigars. During the tobacco curing process, he said they add different natural substances like juniper berries or Chinese all spice. He said technically these are flavored cigars.
“They give the cigar flavor but are not chemically altered or enhanced,” he said. “I won’t be carrying the stuff that kids are cracking open to put weed in.”
John added that they plan to tighten up access in the humidor. He said the humidors will be locked so people can “window shop.” He said patrons can only access the cigars with the help of an employee.
Tracy said although patrons have to be 21 years old to enter, this would stop kids from storming in and stealing.
The board will see a final operations plan before approval.
Green did note that the process is not as straightforward as other similar permit procedures and Blaisdell was hesitant to estimate how long the state process would take. He said it is his first experience with the cigar lounge permitting process and Original Seed Cigar and Lounge would be the first cigar lounge in Berkshire County.

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