During its October 19th meeting, Ambler’s Borough Council voted five to two to approve the transfer of a liquor license from outside the community to 241-65 North Main Street in the borough. One member recused herself.
The transfer was sought by 3 Rivers Beer, LLC, which plans to operate S & K Cafe in a portion of the building that previously had an industrial use. S & K Cafe will offer beer for takeout, delivery, and dine-in, along with grab-and-go food items that are prepared off-site (think breakfast sandwiches, hoagies, and salads). For example, there is no real kitchen and the only heating mechanism is a microwave.
The cafe will have 30 seats at communal tables, but no waitstaff. There will be no bar, televisions, games, etc. There will be no outdoor seating. The applicant’s attorney stated that nothing is done to encourage its customers to hang out.
What is basically being created is a bottle shop like what you see offered at grocery stores that sell beer. The exact same type of license is being utilized (which is also the same type of license used by restaurants). There just won’t be any groceries. 3 Rivers Beer has one or two similar locations open in other communities and approvals to open a few others.
The applicant’s attorney mentioned that in addition to food, it will currently only sell beer. Pennsylvania allows for the sale of wine through this type of license (with a special permit), but it does not allow the wine to be sold via delivery. The business could offer spirits for on-site consumption but has no plans to. Pennsylvania law does not currently allow the sale of spirits (by the bottle) from anywhere other than state stores or direct from a local distillery.
Opening a restaurant at this location is an allowable use with the zoning code, so the question was not whether a restaurant could operate at this location. The area is zoned industrial but allows any use permitted in the commercial district “except hotel or motel, rooming house, tourist home or dwelling unit or gasoline service station.”
The issue before the council was whether a liquor license at this location presented a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the community. The majority of the council was concerned about this type of business at that location but felt that there wasn’t any evidence that it should be denied.
Concerns raised by members of the community were parking, noise, traffic, hours, and the overall use of the building (more on this in a future article). Members of the borough council had similar concerns.
Regarding hours, a business with this type of liquor license is allowed to operate Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. The applicant’s attorney stated that they initially plan to operate at these hours, and any adjustment of these hours will be based on demand.
Councilmember Nellie DiPietro, who was the most vocal member of the council against it, made a motion to delay the vote to allow the transfer of the license for 60 days (which is allowed by the law). This motion did not pass.
S & K Cafe is expected to open in early 2022.
You can watch the hearing (which gets somewhat heated between council members) here.