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New owners reopen Iron Horse Music Hall this week, still waiting to hear about liquor license

Following extensive renovations over the last eight months, the historic Iron Horse Music Hall reopens this week for the first since before the pandemic, under new ownership.

The Parlor Room Collective bought the Northampton, Massachusetts, venue from property owner Eric Suher.

On Monday, the nonprofit's executive director, Chris Freeman, said the organization imagines the resumption of legendary music performances at the Iron Horse — but also to make it a place for community.

"We're not just reopening the doors to a music venue," Freeman said. "We're reigniting a flame in the heart of downtown Northampton, inviting everyone to be a part of the renewed journey."

The entertainment venue resumes business this week without a liquor license. After months of back-and-forth with Northampton license officials and the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC).

In late February, Freeman and others learned that in order to obtain a liquor license, the Parlor Room needed to submit certificates to the ABCC showing that the seller, Suher, was in good standing with the state, showing all taxes have been paid.

"We hope to have some good news very shortly," Randy Krotowski, president of the Parlor Room, said Monday. "We've been working pretty diligently with the ABCC and ...with everybody involved."

Krotowski would not elaborate.

In the short term, he said, concert-goers can bring their own beverages, and the kitchen will be open for food.

"I think the challenge is longer term," Krotowski said. "[BYOB] is not the right answer for us to keep the place open. We would miss the revenue from the liquor. And the reality is, I think there's people who won't come here if there's not a bar."

Overall, the Iron Horse is ready for business, Krotowski said.

Though there are still several items to finish up, the HVAC and sound system were up and running for Monday's event.

"If you move into a house and you have this long punch list, we have like a really long punch list, but it's all stuff that can be done after we open," Krotowski said. "The heating and ventilation is working. The bathrooms are working. So I think we're in pretty good shape."

In past years, the bathrooms had been a point of contention for musicians and concert goers, Krotowski said.

Everybody who's come in recently to see the progress takes a look at the bathrooms, he said.

"The main venue itself [has been rehabbed and] is more comfortable, but if you really want to surprise someone, show them the bathrooms. They are just so different from what they were," Krotowski said.

The bars and kitchen have been completely remodeled. But the general shape of the seating area downstairs and stage will look familiar to longtime fans of the music venue, which first opened in 1979.

Over the years, local and national musicians have played at the Iron Horse, according to the Music Museum of New England, including Roseanne Cash, Shawn Colvin, Graham Parker, The Nields, Chris Smither, Steve Forbes and more recently Haley Heynderickx.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."