Bellevue asked to exceed bar quota

Bellevue Council is being asked to allow an increase in the number of bars permitted in the borough.

The borough spent more than a century as a “dry” town before efforts to allow businesses to serve alcoholic beverages began about 10 years ago. To make the change, voters had to approve a ballot referendum. The first time around, proponents failed to obtain enough signatures on a petition that would have allowed the referendum to be placed on the primary election ballot. During the next municipal election two years later, the referendum made it to the ballot, but was defeated by voters. Proponents, by law, had to wait at least four years before the referendum could be placed on the ballot again. In 2015, the measure was finally approved by voters.

Based on state law and the population in Bellevue as of the 2010 Census, the borough could have two “R” liquor licenses, which are the licenses that allow retail restaurant sales of individual alcoholic beverages. The application for the first license was filed immediately by then-Bellevue Council member Mark Helbling, who continues to operate a restaurant/bar/performance venue at 565 Lincoln Ave.

It took a while before the second license moved into Bellevue, granted to the new restaurant “Revival” on Lincoln Avenue at North Fremont just this past year.

In between the two licenses, Bellevue Council member Grant Saylor -- a proponent of the referendum and part of a group that developed agreements with alcohol-serving businesses regarding hours of operation, staff training, and other matters designed to keep the bars from becoming nuisances -- became one of the owners of a brewery that will open on Lincoln Avenue at Hawley. A brewery license does not fall into the state’s “R” category, so it was able to get approval from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (LCB) without the borough’s involvement.

Now, Bellevue Council has been notified that the owners of a new restaurant want to serve alcoholic beverages, and hope to transfer another “R” liquor license into the borough. Because this would exceed Bellevue’s quota, the owners must obtain permission from Bellevue Council -- in the form of a resolution -- before the LCB will even consider the new application.

The owners of “202 Hometown Tacos” spoke to council members at the pre-council meeting Tuesday, describing their plans for a Mexican restaurant at 407 Lincoln Ave., where renovations are underway.

Owners Marc Seiavitch and David Caligiuri said that their restaurant will occupy two storefronts, and that they are attempted to obtain ownership of adjacent property that could be used for off-street parking. One half of the business will feature dining, while the other side will feature the bar, although both sides will offer full service of food and beverages, they said.Each will seat about 30-35 people.

Seiavitch said that they were amenable to any type of conditions the borough might want to impose on operation of the bar, and added that many of those conditions required of prior bars in Bellevue already have been met. He said that 12 security cameras already have been installed, and that all employees will be required to have special training in serving alcoholic beverages.

He estimated that the restaurant would employ as many as 30 people, and that they hoped to recruit staff from the community.

Bellevue Council voted 8-1 to consider a resolution at next Tuesday’s regular council meeting that would allow the new business to apply for an “R” license from the LCB. The final decision on whether the license is granted will fall to the LCB itself.

Jodi Hause was the only member of Bellevue Council to urge caution and further research before a resolution was brought to the table. Her instincts proved correct, as the adoption of a resolution next Tuesday would have been in violation of LCB regulations.

The matter of the necessity of holding a public hearing before the borough could exceed its quota of “R” licenses was broached with Saylor following the meeting. At that time he said that he did not believe a hearing was required, but asked to be informed if The Citizen found out differently -- which it did.

On Wednesday morning, LCB spokesperson Shawn Kelly confirmed that the resolution could not be adopted before Bellevue advertised and conducted a public hearing to solicit public comment.

A date for the hearing has not yet been announced.