WEST STOCKBRIDGE – More than two decades ago, the city banned vehicle access to a bridge on Main Street that spans the Williams River, converting it into a footbridge.
The bridge leads to Harris Street, which ends at the Truc Orient Express restaurant, leaving the restaurant’s only access to a private road which is informally known as the Merritt Way.
However, this unofficial passage of Center Street, long maintained by the city, is at the heart of a dispute between the owners of Truc and their neighbor, The Foundry, a place of performing and visual arts. The Foundry is adjacent to the road and is part of the same property owned for two years by Amy Brentano, artistic production director of the Foundry.
For more than 20 years, Truc customers have used this route to reach the restaurant, as Truc is “mostly landlocked” by private property, said Truc Nguyen, whose family has owned the Vietnamese restaurant for 42 years.
Enter a shaky post-COVID reopening season. Although it is technically legal on Saturday, when COVID restrictions are lifted, Brentano chooses to host shows on weekends outside, on this road, until customers feel more comfortable with it. a return to the domestic site, she said.
“Everything is very fragile at the moment,” she added.
But, Brentano’s plans to close the road from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. will reduce access to Truc on Friday and Saturday nights, as Brentano fears the mix of moving cars and foundry audiences.
This muddies Truc’s plans during his peak hours, as he is about to start a take-out service while preparing for a full reopening, Nguyen said.
The dispute shifted attention to City Hall, where officials had already started seeking an easement that would extend Harris Street to Moscow Road, opening another entrance to Truc. This involves the conclusion of the $ 10,000 agreement with National Grid, which holds the right of way, and the competition for the work.
Additionally, the city will consider whether to rebuild the walkway to re-allow cars.
Until then, solutions are sought, and not without pain – and perhaps the courts. In a board meeting on Tuesday via Zoom, board member Kathleen Keresey said the town’s lawyer told the board he couldn’t get into this tangle.
Brentano later said she was accused at the meeting of being “interested”.
The longtime Berkshire theater educator said she felt unfairly maligned by some even though she allows her property to be used for the farmers market and has been very involved with the community.
“Why the meeting was fired and I was accused of very nasty things I’m not really sure,” she said.
The Select Board also took the heat.
Andy Potter, a resident of the city, said that when Brentano went to the board in March to discuss his plans, the state was still under COVID emergency orders, and most of them they are about to expire. He urged the council to force Brentano to cease and desist.
“This select committee should not pick winners and losers in this city,” he said, noting that Nguyen had spoken of the reopening as soon as she could.
Nguyen told the board that she only learned of the evening road closure on May 12 and suggested the board favored the foundry by default. She said no previous owner of the road had ever tried to cut off access and the council had never contacted her about it.
“And me?” said Nguyen, who returned to New York City two years ago to help her mother run the restaurant after her father died. “I live here, doesn’t my life matter?”
During the meeting, Brentano said she informed the scorers of her intention to close the road. She later said she didn’t need permission to shut it down, but presented her plans to council out of courtesy and offered to pay her staff to pass food from Truc to customers, but that Nguyen did not accept.
The council also proposed to reserve four places on Main Street for Truc.
Nguyen said she was “exploring all options” to resolve the issue and declined to comment on details.