Update 2/14: Palmyra Borough Council denied the intermunicipal liquor license transfer during their meeting on Tuesday, Wed. 14.

Palmyra Borough Council will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 to again consider a request for transferring a liquor license owned by Ninkovich LLC to 1 E. Main St.

The transfer of the Ninkovich LLC license from 800 Cumberland St., Lebanon, to Palmyra was last considered in October 2023. Palmyra Borough Council denied the transfer in November. The liquor license, currently in safekeeping status, was last used to operate The Samler on 8th in Lebanon.

Palmyra Borough Council president Beth Shearer told the Lebanon Daily News in November that the transfer was denied, in part, out of credibility issues with the testimony.

As previously reported by LebTown, concerns about the involvement of Chris Behney, owner of the former Just Wing It restaurant in Lebanon, in restaurants operating with a PLCB license have now been an issue in three separate Lebanon County municipalities. Lebanon City Mayor Sherry Capello and former Annville Township commissioner James Scott have both previously testified to the PLCB on separate occasions that Behney – brother of Derek Ninkovich, legal owner of the license and sole member of Ninkovich LLC – had been involved in The Samler in Lebanon and Just Wing It in Annville much more than they had been led to believe throughout their own respective liquor license transfer processes.

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“The brother saying he’s not involved, but he’s the one filling out the application,” Shearer told the Daily News. “He’s the one calling the borough. He’s the one who owns the property but not paying the bill. … So, they’re saying he’s not going to be involved, but he is.”

The second and current transfer application was submitted by Behney on Dec. 28, 2023. Palmyra Borough manager Roger Powl told LebTown that Behney will be appearing at the hearing himself and related that he will be purchasing his brother’s liquor license. (As LebTown reported in November, Behney originally financed the purchase of the license by his brother, according to PLCB hearing records.)

PLCB officials confirmed that they received an application for a double transfer of the Ninkovich LLC license to Behney Enterprises LLC, trading as the Crab House, 1 E. Main St., Palmyra. Chris Behney is the sole member of Behney Enterprises, said the PLCB.

Notice of the pending double transfer posted at 1 E. Main Street in Palmyra. (LebTown)

A double transfer is PLCB parlance for a combined person-to-person and place-to-place transfer. The application is “being held in abeyance pending receipt of a municipal resolution from Palmyra approving an intermunicipal transfer,” said PLCB spokesperson Shawn Kelly.

According to state law, liquor licenses are considered property (PDF); however, in event of a purchase agreement or other security interest in a license, ownership status doesn’t automatically grant permission to sell alcohol or use the license in other ways, but rather the authority to renew, transfer, or manage the license itself in some way.

If the intermunicipal license transfer is approved, the PLCB will begin to process the application, which includes an investigation in the potential licensee and license location. During this period, the PLCB also accepts protests and petitions to intervene (PDF) from those who have standing to do so.

LebTown held a lengthy email exchange with Behney, but he did not agree to interview requests. Behney alleged, without providing specifics, that LebTown created stories with things that are not true.

“You wrote some really negative things about me,” said Behney. “What you did to my brother was wrong.”

Behney said that he has more than enough to hire five lawyers to teach LebTown a lesson.

“My little brother wanted to open a restaurant and in your articles you basically wrote nothing about him,” said Behney. “Your focus was on me and Just Wing It.”

Behney said the building at 1 E. Main St. definitely needs some new life, and that he has some amazing wings. Behney purchased the property in October 2022 for $199,000.

“Are you going to write a positive article or another hit piece?,” said Behney. “I can truly be an asset to you and LebTown. I know A LOT of things.”

“Not gonna lie it really sucks when you write nasty stuff because I truly have some of the best wings around. I hope we can do business.”

The liquor code calls for the licensing board to determine whether applicants are of “good repute” and the PLCB may consider convictions of misdemeanors and felonies when considering any license application, as well as “any other factor the Board deems appropriate” in making this determination, according to the state liquor code. According to Pennsylvania court records, Behney does have a criminal record, including guilty pleas to misdemeanor homicide by vehicle, misdemeanor simple assault, and misdemeanor DUI. The most recent of these incidents occurred 16 years ago.

Behney did not respond to questions about whether he felt that in the past he had to downplay his involvement in the businesses due to the risk of the PLCB denying or not renewing a license over the misdemeanors that were on his record.

Behney also did not respond to questions about whether it was his opinion that PLCB and municipal officials should recognize that people can change and grow and learn from mistakes, nor did he comment on whether he thought it was appropriate for the PLCB to deny someone the opportunity to put a bar and restaurant into a place where it could improve a community based on actions that took place more than a decade ago.

“Are you writing a positive article about a new restaurant or are you writing an article about my past?,” said Behney. “Not one question you are asking is going to tell the community about a new restaurant. Your personal vendetta against me is very vibrant.”

Behney said he would answer questions related to a building and a new restaurant. The restaurant was not a Just Wing It nor is it a crab house, he said, adding that it will feature 250 wing flavors.

“I am buying a liquor license so people can have a beer with their wings after a long day at work,” said Behney. “I wish you would be fair and write a nice article but you won’t and then I’m going to have to take you to court. I wanna help build the downtown you wanna burn my dreams down. I actually wanna help you and you wanna smear me. You’re sick man.”

Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using this contact form and we’ll do our best to get back to you.

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Davis Shaver is the publisher of LebTown. He grew up in Lebanon and currently lives outside of Hershey, PA.

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