Letters to the Editor

BAD BEHAVIOR

Editor:

Reading the article “Officials get free lunch,” I was a little disturbed (as a Ben Avon resident) by how my council members were behaving.

What was disturbing was the pettiness of the whole situation. Granted, Mayor Jones’ lunch was a business expense, and while I agree that his expenses should be covered, it’s surprising how Mayor Jones handled the situation. As mayor, shouldn’t you know what the rules and regulations are regarding such expenditures?

Additionally, council member Ron Galbraith’s request to be compensated for the cost of supplies that went into a painting that his wife “donated” was tacky! Did council ask Mrs. Galbraith to paint the painting? To me, donated means you have given something freely with no strings attached. It was childish to ask for money after the fact.

Ms. [Sue] Weiss was the only one who showed some decorum in diffusing the situation, and I applaud her for acting as I would expect a council member to behave.

Patti Hugney
Ben Avon

SUPPORTS LIQUOR SALES

Editor:

I'm writing in support of the effort to allow alcoholic drinks to be served in Bellevue. I've lived in the borough for the past 15 months and my wife and I plan to raise our family here for several decades. My wife is far more socially conservative than I, but sees the benefits of alcohol sales on attracting news businesses and strengthening the ones we already have.

My dream for our community is to see the former Central Methodist building become a “destination restaurant.” Some of the region's most distinguishable businesses are in repurposed former churches -- Mr. Small's in Millvale is one of the top concert and recording studios in the country, the Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville, Altar Bar in the Strip District, and the Priory on the North Side are just a few. I can't see a tax-generating business moving into that space -- or others -- if they can't obtain a liquor license.

We're not talking shot and beer dive bars like you see elsewhere. Bellevue has the opportunity to instantly increase its attractiveness to regional developers and families who see value in being able to walk into town for a drink with friends and family. Isn't it odd we allow a beer distributor in the borough but Vivo, consistently rated one of the region's top 25 restaurants, couldn't serve wine that matched the scale of their menu? Our best known establishment open past business hours is now gone.

I find it quite hypocritical -- morally and legally -- to allow at least a dozen businesses that sell tobacco products - most of which result in cigarette butts littering our sidewalks and polluting our air -- and at least one establishment selling pornographic magazines. How can we look at alcohol as morally against the values of Bellevue if we have double standards on how it is sold?

We moved here so we can walk places rather than drive. Currently when I have family and friends visit and we go somewhere to grab a few drinks -- we must drive. We are responsible, but what about the 8,700 other residents? Providing establishments within walking distance reinforces us as a walking community, not one that forces its residents to drink and spend their money elsewhere. I'm sick of giving my money to other townships and driving to find a classy place to grab a beer with friends.

Prohibition ended in 1933, and I feel most opponents are looking back at least that far. The families we are looking to attract to Bellevue are like myself: working professionals under 30, looking to start a family and buy a home in a safe and walkable community. In my 15 months as a resident of the borough, I've heard more stories about what we used to have rather than what we currently are. Frankly, I don't care for it.

In order for Bellevue to survive, we must look forward. Otherwise we risk becoming closer to some of our neighbors in Emsworth, McKees Rocks, and West View -- towns that once were.

Scott Irlbacher
Bellevue

ALCOHOL -- FEARS VS. POSSIBILITIES

Editor:

I’d like to say first that the questions that arise from the possibility of alcohol sales in Bellevue are understandable and extremely important and that everyone must be well informed to be able to make a good decision, either way, for the future of our town.

There is a lot to say about the ability of some dive bar popping into town and I definitely understand the concern. First, the tools in place are extremely effective to prevent that and are stronger than in the past. The rules attached to the R license say "that the establishment must be a reputable place operated by responsible persons of good reputations and habitually and principally used for the purpose of providing food for the public." (As per a recent conversation with a representative from the PALCB -- I was told that the rulings say that potato chips and pretzels do not qualify as food. However, I have also seen where other literature can be vague.) Combined, all the other rules/regulations make it very unattractive or conducive for a bad establishment to even want to open and invest all the money to do so, not only is it preventable, we also have the ability to shut it down if the operation is not compliant, etc. Why would someone want to open or try to open something that is not a quality place, especially with the knowledge that law enforcement would be at their door -- and with the fact that the protest of the people is powerful during the protest period and/or after, not to mention all the restrictions with logistics and nearby institutions being able to protest -- all of which could result in a shut down of the business. Of course my question posed here doesn’t mean that someone couldn’t try, but we do have the power to protect ourselves and prevent the undesirable when done correctly.

When we compare to other towns, people ought to also consider the successful ones that have quality businesses and a vibrant main street, instead of always comparing to those with establishments that would not be desired in Bellevue. It is also important to note that some of those bad places exist elsewhere because the people or the township don’t care or bother to take the steps to close them down. None of us want that here and there are existing effective ways to prevent it as well as additional conditions that Bellevue can impose on a liquor license to ensure the quality of an establishment.

Also, I 'd like to give some due credit to the existing businesses and possible new ones who might be given this privilege, as well as the people who would patronize these establishments -- a lot more credit than they seem to be getting in regards to the quality of their character and what the results would be if alcohol were allowed. There are many good people, young professionals and many others of all age here in town and all around us that would be happy to spend their time and money here in town rather than going elsewhere as they do now, and the type of places that are going to attract them are not the low class establishment. The latest examples of new liquor licenses in our area are the Cafe Notte and the Mia Madre -- both desirable, quality places. The trend today is heavily towards cafes, bistros and restaurants. This initiative is not about dive bars -- it’s about providing more options that attract a lot more people and customers. It’s about being able to compete with other successful towns/areas that currently take away our potential customers. Its about economic development and growth and doing everything we can to make sure it gets done properly, safely and in a way that benefits everyone, while creating more revenue, creating new businesses and strengthening the great ones we already have.

The picture that keeps getting painted out there is a negative one, but I ask all of the people of Bellevue to at least start imagining the opposite -- to think of the possibilities of town where people can come and have dinner, a glass of wine or a drink and a night out. Where we can get together with friends for the evening and listen to a music performance and enjoy a nice atmosphere, or an afternoon at a cafe. Where we can walk to places that a lot of us drive to now. Where our fine shops stay open in the evening because there are more people attracted to our area. Where Bellevue becomes a destination spot because we have increased the options that people are looking for and enjoy. We have to ask ourselves -- why are the type of good places that exist in other attractive towns around the world- bad for us here? Take a look at other very successful towns and see what they have that we do not and that’s what this initiative is about.

I encourage everyone to look at the facts for themselves, don’t take my word for it. Look at the statistics on towns that have gone from dry to wet and see their success stories and how it benefited their community, and look at other successful town in today’s world and see what they have. Research the PALCB rules and regulations as well as the past "legal rulings" of the PALCB that also determine decisions in addition to the regulations. Look into the safeguards that protect us. Look at all sides of this issue and learn all you can.

I also encourage everyone to think of the positive possibilities and the benefits to the community.

The petition process is currently underway and the last day to sign is Monday, March 7. Please note that the petitions are only a part of the democratic process and ONLY put the option for liquor licenses up for a vote on the May 17 election, which then gives the people of Bellevue the power to choose at that time. By signing the petition you are not voting yes -- you are only allowing the issue to be on the ballot.

In the end, it is up to the people of Bellevue

Mark Helbling
Bellevue

[Editor’s Note: We appreciate Mr. Helbling drawing to our attention an LCB administrative advisory opinion in which the opinion was expressed that potato chips and popcorn are not sufficient to satisfy the LCB. That same opinion, which does not carry the weight of law, pointed out that “prepackaged beef stew” was sufficient to meet the requirement that a place serving alcohol be one that principally and habitually serves food. The only section of the actual Liquor Code that defines food in any way is a subsection that says that anyone wanting to remove a partially-consumed bottle of wine from the premises must have purchased the wine in conjunction with a meal sufficient to be considered breakfast, lunch or dinner. The only section of the Liquor Code that makes reference to how much of an establishment’s business must be food vs. how much is alcohol is in the subsection that prohibits minors from being in a place in which alcohol is served unless at least 50 percent of the gross sales are for food and nonalcoholic beverages. The sale of alcohol in Bellevue has the potential to be either very good for the town, or very bad for the town -- most likely somewhere in between. But if people want to see this issue on the ballot, they need to sign one of the petitions by Monday.]

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