After being shut down earlier this week, the Point Breeze Pop-Up beer garden is back in business.
Immediately after receiving the July 8 cease and desist order the Department of Licenses and Inspections, owner John Longacre filed suit in municipal court, asking for an emergency injunction hearing.
The case went to court on Friday, and Longacre emerged victorious.
The open-air beer garden at 1622 Point Breeze Ave. (near 22nd and Tasker) will be open regular hours on Saturday, and for the foreseeable future.
— Point Breeze Pop-Up (@PBreezePopUp) July 10, 2015
It’s a development that will not please the beer garden’s naysayers, including several neighborhood residents who have fought the project since they first heard of it this spring.
In her ruling finding the garden could reopen, Judge Nina Wright Padilla said that L&I had restricted Longacre’s access to due process, that a cease and desist order citing “improper zoning” was far too harsh for a business entity that had zero code violations on record. She also noted that the city department did not have the discretion to remove or revoke the operation’s temporary catering permit that allows the garden to sell beer.
At the hearing, L&I deputy commissioner for operations Ralph DiPietro argued that the PBPU should have been required to go before the zoning board and apply for a variance. Longacre responded that even if he did need a variance to operate the garden (which he doesn’t believe), it would have been the temporary kind, which does not require a board meeting. Judge Padilla agreed, and gave Longacre 30 days to file a new temporary zoning application.
It was a rough week for beer gardens in general: the Uptown Beer Garden, run by Teddy Sourias of U-Bahn and Bru Craft & Wurst, was shut down after L&I deemed it did not have all the proper permits necessary for operation.
“I hope we’ll be able to reopen soon. We thought we were good, never thought we had to get a permit for a toilet trailer,” Sourias told Billy Penn via email.
Both circumstances are the result of uncertainty surrounding interpretation of the law that allowed beer gardens to start popping up in the first place. In 2012, the PA Legislature passed a liquor code amendment designed to make it easier for current liquor license holders to cater one-day events, up to 50 in one year. Clever bar owners realized they could take advantage of a loophole and piggyback these licenses on concurrent days, and that the wording of the legislation made it so their temporary beer gardens did not even require zoning variances in order to operate.
“I knew this law was a mess from the beginning. The beer gardens are not the problem, the problem is the enforcement — there’s a lot of gray area,” said Longacre via telephone. “What this really did was help clarify that there’s a problem. Either they’re going to have to create new legislation to deal with the situation, or the city’s going to have to back off.”