First liquor license application

A notice announcing the application for a liquor license by 565 Enterprises went up at the building at 565 Lincoln Ave. in Bellevue on Wednesday, not even a full day after voters approved a primary election ballot referendum allowing liquor licenses to be granted to businesses in the borough. This is the first of two licenses that are immediately available in Bellevue. Photo by Connie Rankin for The Citizen

The voting machines had barely cooled down after Tuesday’s primary election when Bellevue residents saw the borough’s first liquor license application notice appear on a storefront window.

A referendum to allow businesses to open bars and restaurants serving alcoholic beverages was approved by voters, 897-526.

This marked the third attempt by proponents of ending Bellevue’s “dry” status to get the law changed. A first attempt six years ago failed to produce enough signatures on a petition to get the question on the election ballot. Four years ago, the referendum was defeated by voters.

This time around, voters had no trouble approving the measure, with 63 percent of voters voting in favor of the referendum.

The referendum was approved in every district of each of Bellevue’s three wards: In the first ward, first district, the vote was 138-78; 1-2, 143-106; 2-1, 118-92; 2-2, 150-81; 3-1, 190-107; 3-2, 158-62.

A similar measure was approved by Wilkinsburg voters Tuesday by similar margins.

On Wednesday, the orange notice indicating an application for the transfer of a liquor license into Bellevue went up on the window of the building at 565 Lincoln Ave. That building currently houses the restaurant Grille 565 at street level, as well as a live music venue, 565 Live, on the lower level. Both have been operating as BYOB establishments, and looking forward to the day when liquor licenses allow the retail sale of alcoholic beverages.

The two businesses will become one, uniting under the 565 Enterprises corporate title so that a single liquor license will allow sales on either floor.

The corporation itself was formed on May 12, a week before the primary election, by Mark Helbling, a lifelong resident and current president of Bellevue Council who has been running the 565 Live portion of the business.

Helbling said that he wanted to be the first applicant for a liquor license so that he could set an example from the very beginning as to how the introduction of liquor licenses into Bellevue should be handled.

Also on Wednesday, a citizens’ group held its first meeting to draft operating conditions for the borough’s first bar. If the group can reach an agreement with Helbling, the “Conditional Licensing Agreement” (CLA) will become binding on the liquor license and will be enforced by the LCB/LCE. The CLA can impose restrictions on hours of operation, require specific training for employees, etc.

Helbling has no problem with that. In fact, he welcomes the opportunity to set a good example for future licensees.

“This is how it can be,” he said. “And this is how it should be.”

The orange notice provides instructions for anyone wanting to protest the license. Within 30 days, a protest can be filed by someone who objects to the location, if that person falls into one of three categories listed in the state liquor code: A person who resides within 300 feet of the location, an institution such as a school or church within 300 feet of the location, or a licensee whose licensed premises are located within 200 feet of the proposed location. For protests based on the qualifications of the licensee, a person having information concerning those qualifications can petition to intervene.

Finally, should Bellevue residents decide liquor licenses just aren’t working out, they can place a referendum on the ballot as soon as four years from now to reinstate the borough’s dry status.

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