Yuki Cohen won her appeal of the city’s COVID fines. Now she wants to win public opinion. | Central Berkshires
PITTSFIELD – In general, City Councilor Yuki Cohen presented state and city documents in an attempt to clear her name ahead of the city council election, after her campaign declared a series of very coronavirus quotes. publicity at its bar, Methuselah Bar and Lounge, has tainted its public image over the past year.
“I call it a witch hunt,” Cohen said of the town’s quotes against his restaurant.
The documents represent the results of two reviews: one initiated by the state in November for an incident that occurred in October 2020, and the other by the city’s hearing officer for several fines issued in December by the Board of Health. from the city.
The October 2020 outbreak prompted the Ministry of Labor Standards to conduct a “formal review” of the Methuselah coronavirus security plan.
In an email response, Cohen told a state health and safety inspector that she and another employee tested positive for the coronavirus after a friend visited the bar. The friend helped clean up and shut down the bar for the night, then stayed for a drink after the bar closed.
The friend had come with a group of 10 earlier in the evening. When the city’s contact tracers investigated an increase in coronavirus cases last year, they linked about 20 cases to the party, the city’s public health nurse told The Eagle on last year.
It was one of three groups that city health officials largely blamed on a resurgence of the virus in the city, which led Mayor Linda Tyer to restrict restaurants to take-out-only service. About 30 cases were linked to a Halloween 2020 house party and 60 were linked to PortSmitt’s.
“Somehow I was blamed for this shutdown because they thought I was the cause of the spread,” Cohen said. “The final conclusion of the investigation was that we were the recipients of the virus, not the spreaders.”
The state inspector reviewed a brief statement Cohen wrote about the evening, as well as the bar’s coronavirus security plans and clean-up procedures.
According to an email chain Cohen provided to The Eagle, the inspector concluded that “it appears that the two positives you had” among the staff were “associated with customers coming in who were positive and eating in your room. establishment”.
“Other than that, it looks like your COVID plan is pretty good,” the inspector wrote.
In all of the emails Cohen provided, the inspector did not appear to address the other cases associated with the outbreak.
Cohen said the tone of the state exam was night and day of how she felt in subsequent city exams.
“Like all of nature [the state’s] call was to make sure everyone was safe and that everyone got what they needed, ”Cohen said. “I felt like here in Pittsfield it was like catching and punishing, rather than finding a way to make everyone safe and improve protocols.”
In December, the Board of Health imposed two fines of $ 500 on Methuselah for violating state workplace safety standards regarding employee masking and social distancing between customers.
The fines stemmed from a complaint sent to council by Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio, who received a picture of Cohen, along with Ward 6 Councilor Dina Lampiasi and his wife, sharing an unmasked drink at the bar after the closure of the ‘business.
Cohen refused to pay the fines, instead appealing the citations to the city’s hearing officer, Dick Bordeau. Cohen argued that the events of December 11 did not in fact violate state safety standards and that the city’s process for handling complaints violated its own code and state boundary ordinances. almonds.
Cohen provided The Eagle with an October 1 image of a July 20 letter from Bordeaux stating that the violations were dismissed after a July 14 hearing.
For nearly a month, The Eagle sought comments from Acting Health Director Andy Cambi and Bordeaux on the citation process and the reasons the fines were waived. Cambi, who served as the city’s health chief and handled coronavirus safety complaints during the period in question, and Bordeau did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
On October 20, The Eagle submitted a request to record the court notes and all City communications related to the fines. City clerk Michele Benjamin said the request must be returned by the Department of Health no later than November 3.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Methuselah Bar and Lounge received several other written warnings and quotes regarding coronavirus safety protocols – including a case where Cohen was filmed dancing without a mask on the bar. The Licensing Board also revoked the bar’s liquor and entertainment licenses for one month each following the incident.
Cohen admits she made mistakes – joking that “I’ll be sure next time I dance on the bar I’ll wear a mask” – but she doesn’t want those mistakes to limit what she says. it can do for residents.
“People make mistakes; it was partly my mistakes, partly because I felt wrongly accused, and partly it was, you know, a frenzy of false information,” Cohen said.
“I just really want to improve the city and participate [and help] the city makes decisions, ”she said. “I hope people don’t look at me with one lens.”