11 PM update:
For the second time in as many weeks, the Point Breeze Pop-Up has been shut down.
What’s going on?
In short, the cease and desist order that shut down the pop-up the first time is back in effect, because L&I appealed the ruling that temporarily lifted it and allowed the garden to reopen, and right now the judge who issued the ruling happens to be on vacation.
PBPU owner John Longacre is not pleased with what he sees as a tricky maneuver on behalf of the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections. He pleaded with representatives of that office to at least allow him to operate throughout this weekend, when a planned art fair and food truck festival was scheduled for Saturday, July 18. The event was to be a fundraiser for Nia-Next, the apprenticeship program of local repertory ensemble Danse4Nia, and would have raised money to send young dancers to New Orleans. In lieu of the money that would have been raised, Longacre is personally donating funds to assure the trip can go forward.
According to Longacre, L&I tried to bargain with him via email, basically saying: If you file a request for expedited zoning, we’ll let you operate for the next 21 days. By filing the request, Longacre would be essentially admitting that he agrees that a zoning variance is required for the PBPU to operate. Longacre maintains that’s not the case, since the garden is operating under a temporary catering license issued by the state under a so-called “loophole” provided by PA Legislature’s Act 116 of 2012.
Longacre refused to file the request, and so L&I confirmed it would enforce the shutdown throughout the weekend.
Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who represents Philadelphia’s 2nd District (in which the PBPU is located), is a big supporter of the beer garden and would like to find a better solution, according to his legislative director, Steve Cobb.
Longacre recalled his conversation with Johnson’s office: “We discussed the fact that there are over 100 houses crumbling and dangerous in the district, and L&I is sending five lawyers to deal with the pop-up appeal?”
Johnson’s position is that since there is no safety issue, and because the beer garden is a “positive action” that “helps revitalize Point Breeze Avenue,” that L&I should allow the garden to continue to operate while the parties work out their differences and come to a conclusion about whether zoning variances are necessary.
“L&I works hard,” Cobb told Billy Penn. “But the near neighbors like the pop-up garden. You should have seen the lot before [Longacre cleaned it up]. This is not a safety issue.”
For now, the PBPU remains closed.
Details forthcoming; we have reached out for comment.
On July 8, owner John Longacre told Billy Penn he’d been shut down by the city’s Department of Licensing and Inspection. Two days later, a judge ordered the garden re-opened; apparently something has changed.
The beer garden has been a point of contention in the neighborhood, as some longtime residents feared it was a sign of encroaching gentrification.