Pennsylvania Supreme Court Won't Hear Appeal of Ruling Rejecting Ordinance to Limit Bars

Jan 5, 2012

A Pittsburgh councilman, who represents the South Side, says that he believes that it's now up to the state to provide the financial resources to help the city deal with the consequences of a saturation of liquor licenses in that community.

Councilman Bruce Kraus made that comment in response to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision not to hear the city's appeal of an Allegheny County Court ruling that struck down a 2007 city zoning ordinance. That law was intended to restrict the number of bars on the South Side by establishing a limit of one liquor license per 50,000 square feet.

Dourid Aboud challenged the ordinance in court after his restaurant, Baba D's, was denied a zoning permit even though the restaurant had a state liquor license.

"[Under this ruling] the state can dictate any number of alcohol licenses living within any business district without any real oversight from the city," Kraus said. "But at the same time, the state will not provide the resources to manage the impact of that concentration of liquor licenses, and that's what I think is really wrong with this decision."

He says that only the state has the authority to issue alcohol licensees, but nullifying this zoning ordinance allows for over-concentration.

"All 800 [liquor licenses] could move to a neighborhood like the South Side, if you will," Kraus said. "The municipal government, the governing body, has no say on how the licenses move within the city."

Kraus says that the community has been experiencing the problems from a large number of bars. "With overcrowding and neglect of enforcement of over-occupancy and DUI, increased assault, increased aggravated assault," said Kraus.

He says that state lawmakers are very much aware of the issue. Kraus and other city officials testified in 2010 at a Senate Law and Justice Committee hearing held on the South Side, but to his knowledge there is no pending legislation to help the city. However, he's hopeful that efforts by the Allegheny County District Attorney's office to shut down nuisance bars will remedy that.

"I hope they [state legislative leaders] will see that unmanaged concentration is not in the best interest of the PLCB [Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board], or an active night life, or in regards to city residents and businesses, either," Kraus said.