Bellevue approves liquor license

Not only did Bellevue Council finalize an agreement that will allow a new business to serve alcoholic beverages, it has established a procedure to be used in any future applications for liquor licenses above the state-mandated quota.

Council was caught completely off guard in January when the owners of the soon-to-open 202 Hometown Tacos presented their business plan and asked that council adopt a resolution required by the state Liquor Control Board (LCB) because the business would hold the third liquor license in a borough that was limited to two licenses based on population.

An array of legalities slowed the approval of the necessary resolution, with attorneys for each side negotiating a final draft of a “Good Neighbor Agreement” (GNA) until just hours before the council meeting began at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The borough ended up backing down on the three biggest clauses in the GNA after they were opposed by the owners and some members of council.

The meatiest clause in the original GNA tied the business occupancy permit to violations of the agreement. The clause would have given Bellevue the authority to revoke the occupancy permit if, after notice, the business failed to come into compliance with any of the requirements of the GNA. The final draft limits Bellevue’s enforcement powers to fines as high as $500 per day if, after 10 days notice, the business does not comply with the terms of the agreement.

The issue of “fines,” however, is somewhat misleading, as a fine constitutes a penalty for the violation of an ordinance, and no ordinance exists to enforce the GNA. At best, the “fines” would be a civil penalty levied by a court after the borough files a lawsuit for breach of contract.

The other two clauses removed by the borough would have required the business to close by 1 a.m. even though the state code allows bars to serve alcohol until 2 a.m., and a clause that would have prohibited the business from serving alcoholic beverages in any outdoor space between 3 and 5 p.m. on weekdays during the school year.

The GNA was approved in a 6-3 vote, with Anthony DiTullio, Jodi Hause and Linda Woshner opposed. IN favor were Tom Fodi, Grant Saylor, Anya Pikul, Glenn Pritchard, Val Pennington and Tom Hrynda.

The motion to approve the resolution allowing the transfer of a third liquor license into Bellevue was approved in a 7-2 vote, with Woshner joining those in favor.

The adoption of a new ordinance designed to address liquor license applications should help officials navigate future requests. The ordinance establishes a procedure for applications and sets fees so that Bellevue does not incur advertising and legal costs.

The ordinance also requires approval by two-thirds of council rather than the simple majority required to approve most other measures considered by a borough council. Fodi and Saylor both opposed this requirement, but Fodi noted that all a future council would have to do is amend the ordinance to accept a majority approval if the two-thirds became a problem in the future. An ordinance can be amended with a simple majority vote.

The ordinance was approved in a 6-3 vote with Fodi, Saylor and Pritchard opposed.