Lebanon City Council last night passed a resolution approving the relocation of a North Lebanon Township restaurant liquor license to the City of Lebanon, in what could be the first step toward reopening the William Penn Restaurant and Bar’s barroom, which has been closed since last August. The vote was 5-0.
The William Penn occupies the first floor of a building on the corner of 7th and Cumberland Streets in downtown. Its barroom and adjacent restaurant, famous for its hot dogs, are in separate rooms connected by an interior door.
A bar and restaurant under the William Penn name has operated on the corner since at least 1935, and possibly since 1928.
The barroom was closed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board last August for violations committed by the former operator, William Penn Restaurant and Bar, Inc. The PLCB revoked that corporation’s license after numerous violations of a conditional license agreement that was designed to address earlier violations. The revocation was upheld by Lebanon County President Judge John C. Tylwalk.
The barroom side has been dark since, while the restaurant side, which was not affected by the PLCB action, has remained in business.
The relocation of the liquor license into the city was sought by Four Js and a G, LLC, a limited liability company formed by Cynthia L. Shay of North Cornwall Township. Her husband, William Shay, Jr., is a partner in Bill & Bill Partners, LP, which owns the William Penn Building at 633-635 Cumberland Street.
William Penn Restaurant and Bar, Inc., the former bar operator, had rented the barroom from Bill & Bill Partners.
Cynthia Shay said in a telephone interview that the “Four Js” and the “G” in her LLC’s name refer to the middle names of her five grandchildren, and that she is the LLC’s sole organizer.
At a pre-council meeting on June 18, Four Js attorney Ian Ehrgood told city council that he and his clients were aware that the PLCB revoked the prior bar operator’s license because the establishment had become disorderly and the operators were no longer responsible persons. “We’re aware of the factors that led to [their] revocation, and our goal is not to see these factors repeat.”
William Shay said at pre-council that he and his wife intend to find a new operator, not connected to the old operator, to reopen and run the bar. He stressed that all requirements and restrictions of the “conditional licensing agreement” that PLCB had imposed on the former operator would be strictly followed by any new operator if the PLCB so requires.
Attorney Ehrgood added that Michael Levendis, who was the sole shareholder of the barroom’s former operator, is still operating the restaurant side for breakfast and lunch, and could possibly continue to do so if and when the bar side reopens.
But, Ehrgood pointed out, Levendis would have no connection to the bar operation, and the restaurant’s daily closing time would be before the bar’s daily opening.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Code caps the number of restaurant liquor licenses allowed in any municipality, and the city is already at its limit. However, a municipality may pass a resolution waiving the limit, which is what City Council did last night.
Council’s resolution does not mean that the liquor license has been transferred, or that it ever will be. Four J’s and a G will have to apply to the PLCB for a transfer and, as with any other application, PLCB could approve or reject it. The license is currently held by A&M Amato, Inc., and according to PLCB records is currently associated with A&M Pizza at 1705 E. Cumberland Street.
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