Letters to the Editor 5-6-11

No Bars in Bellevue

Thinking that alcohol will bring prosperity to Bellevue is like asking a one-legged man to stand on his own two feet.

On May 17, voters in Bellevue will decide whether Bellevue remains "dry" or allows the sale of alcoholic beverages. Although some good people want to approve the referendum, I believe that allowing "booze in Bellevue" will be detrimental to our town.
Proponents paint a rosy, albeit naïve, picture of fine dining establishments such as the Rusty Nail or Bite Bistro serving wine or cocktails with lunch or dinner. They conclude that Bellevue will be a "go to" place in the evening like Sewickley or Shadyside. The signs say that a "yes" vote will bring prosperity to a dying town.

If I believed these to be true, I would support the passage of the referendum. But these are "best case" scenarios, somewhat void of reality.

The truth is that:

1. No one knows who will get the two (?) allowable licenses. (Recently, after a lengthy legal battle, the court ruled that the City of Pittsburgh could not limit the amount of bars in the South Side area.)

2. The licenses will not be limited to existing establishments like Luigi's or The Bellevue Diner. If existing businesses get the licenses, where is the prosperity (except for those two)?

3. "Plain English" explanation provided by Allegheny County Elections Division: If this question is approved by a majority of those voting, liquor licenses may be granted by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for the sale of liquor and malt and brewed beverages in bars, taverns, restaurants, hotels, clubs, and similar establishments in the Borough of Bellevue.

4. The "restaurant" does not even have to have a kitchen, as long as it can provide food for 30 seated customers in a 400 sq. ft. space. The food can be prepackaged, ordered in or brought from home.

The proponents do not mention the possible downside of allowing alcoholic sales. Ask any police officer how many problems originate in local bars. Bars have not been a panacea for Avalon. Why would we think that Bellevue would prosper? Is Bellevue that different?

I applaud those who are trying to make Bellevue better. But I do not believe that alcohol is the answer. Tax abatements, affordable parking, safe streets and improved public services would be better for our business district.

Please check out the facts for yourself. Go to nobarsinbellevue.org and follow the links to the PLCB and other sites.

Paul Cusick

Elusive Prosperity

May 17 will be a defining moment for Bellevue. The voters of Bellevue are being asked to bet whether alcohol sales will bring prosperity or problems to this community.

I believe the promised prosperity will be as elusive as the casinos would eliminate school property taxes. The proponents of alcohol would have you believe that Bellevue Council will be able to control who gets the liquor licenses and the licenses will only go to desirable restaurants. This is just not the case.

Bellevue Council has not been able to limit the number of pizza shops and dollar stores in Bellevue, so it follows council will not be able to control bars in Bellevue. In fact, if this referendum passes, licenses can be transferred into Bellevue from other areas of Allegheny County without LCB or council approval. Two or three licenses can grow to the point that Bellevue could resemble a mini South Side and have all of the accompanying problems without any prosperity.

I intend to vote no on the ballot referendum and I hope you will too. If you are interested in getting more information please go to NoBarsinBellevue.org.

Joe Nolan

Who Will Prosper?

Proponents of allowing alcohol sales in Bellevue argue that a vote yes is a vote for prosperity. They are partially correct. If voters allow alcohol sales it will certainly bring prosperity to the liquor license holders, but not likely to the community at large.

Consider the best case possibility that two new restaurants open up shop in currently vacant storefronts and obtain liquor licenses. In this case the primary tax revenue benefit will be mercantile tax on the revenue of those two businesses. At a rate of 1.5 mils, this means a hypothetical $2 million in annual sales will only send an additional $3,000 to the borough -a drop in the bucket of a multi-million dollar budget. Next consider that it's also possible that two existing restaurants obtain the licenses, leaving the vacancy rate unchanged. In this case the benefit to the Borough will be mercantile tax on only the additional liquor sales revenue.

So even in two of the most ideal scenarios, the municipality's share of "prosperity" is only a few thousand dollars a year in additional tax revenue.

The pro-alcohol group also promises a vote for liquor sales is a vote to turn Bellevue into a night-time destination like Sewickley or Regent Square. It is more realistic that we will move in the direction of our next door neighbor Avalon. Our two boroughs have very similar demographics like household income and home value which are lower than those in more affluent Sewickley and Regent Square. We also share a school district, geography and close proximity to the city. While the pro-alcohol group is happy to promote one pending restaurant license for a very nice Italian restaurant, they neglect to mention the four existing restaurant licenses and two existing hotel licenses. Establishments like these will not have a positive impact on the business district.

They also argue that the lack of restaurants serving liquor is deterring people from purchasing houses and moving to the community. When faced with a major life decision like a home purchase, I find it hard to believe most people rank wet/dry status as high on their list of priorities as things like the crime rate, tax burden, or school district.

Our opponents paint a picture of a dying Bellevue full of vacant storefronts with booze as the only cure. I see a vibrant main street emerging from the recession with a bakery, hardware store, grocery store, and many other businesses too numerous to name. Despite the loss of [one restaurant] and lack of liquor licenses, three new eateries opened their doors over the course of the past few months. Thankfully we have a strong community of diverse associations and churches who care about the future of the borough. If we want to attract more desirable business and restaurants, we should focus our efforts on projects that will attract young families and professionals to purchase homes and stay in Bellevue, not those that line the pockets of liquor license holders.

Please join me and vote no on May 17.

Sean Waters

Don't Make It Worse

One of the reasons I safely grew up in Bellevue was because kids “played nice” together, married fathers and mothers stayed together, and church congregations prayed together. In my immediate neighborhood of Sheridan and Roosevelt avenues, fourteen of us, seven boys and seven girls, had a wonderful childhood. There was no bullying, abuse, flunking grades, or dropping out. We played outside in the summer until 9 p.m. until “Rilly’s” mother called out their back window at 184 up to Roosevelt for hime to come home. With Cyril going home, we all did.

God knows the following is true. My mom and dad were totally normal people and I’m sure they disagreed sometimes about some things, but I had reached all the way to the age of 16 before for the very first time I actually heard them argue. It was a three sentence argument about my quitting or not quitting bookkeeping in which I was getting a D. Told you there was no dropping out. My dad had the third sentence.

The churches were full, congenial, reverent, and serious about God. Bellevue, then, had grandparents living with family in, maybe, 40 percent, of the homes. We walked to and from schools because Bellevue was family, Bellevue was safe. Today, I am one of those elders still living in and loving Bellevue.

I hear arguments that the citizens of Bellevue shouldn’t worry about people coming here from other areas who would cause problems at and around beer troughs. We all know that no one can predict outcomes. In fact, there are probably enough people living here and in the area right now who could walk from home every night and cause problems to, from, and afterward. I was the homocide secretary in the district attorney’s office for the last ten years there. We had one drive-by killing (wrong victim). We had no rampaging drug war killings, although many were drug-related. One of the two largest definable categories of murder-prompting situations was the being-at-the-bar or the at-home-after-the-bar arguments and altercations that resulted in death. Killings inside or outside of bars were a factor, of course.

I can only say that the protagonist picture painted of tired lonesome Bellevue residents, justa yearnin’ to be free to walk to a restaurant/bar is laughable clear to scorn. Puhleese. Dontcha just get the picture of men and women strolling “on the avenue” with ties, top hats, full-length skirts and parasols?? Reminds one of the Judy Garland movie “Easter Parade.”
Posing this question: What does God have to say? Now here is where those who don’t want God butting in on their thinking or actions may say “I don’t care.” God says “Woe unto him that gives his neighbor drink, that puts his bottle to him and makes him drunken...” Habakkuk 2:15 KJV Immediately, some will come back with the account of Jesus making wine and serving it at a wedding. I’m certain that God will permit us to drink as much wine as our body can handle -- if we make it, as Jesus did, out of water.

Our community is not in as great shape as before. Facing it, people are not behaving as well as when I was a child. Quite frankly, Adam and Eve fixed that clear back when. We still have it good here in Bellevue. Why deliberately make it worse? May 17 is primary election day. We should vote no on the ballot to the legalization of liquor, wine and beer sales at bars and restaurants.

Virginia Miranda

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