IM this article to a friend!

December 9, 2004

Silent Athletic Club is making noise in Mayfair

From: Northeast Philadelphia News Gleaner, PA - Dec 9, 2004

By: Edward J. Vassallo

Residents, elected officials oppose transfer of liquor license here

The Silent Athletic Club has suddenly produced a lot of talk around the 7200 block of Frankford Ave. as they look for a place to hold their meetings.

The athletic club is eyeing the Mayfair Catering Club for its new home, and wants to transfer their existing liquor license to the new location. This has upset some neighbors on nearby Charles Street, directly behind Frankford Avenue.

Their concerns: increased problems with parking and traffic--already a headache because of a nearby business district heavily populated by bars and taverns.

"(The neighborhood) is protesting not because of our application but because of the current status of the bars on the avenue and the noise that the bars produce," said Barry Goldstein, attorney for athletic club. "Basically, they are objecting to any new addition to any alcoholic beverage service areas. Even though we're not going to be open during the day. We are not going to affect school children."

"These people are good people," Goldstein said of the athletic club. According to Goldstein the club is sports-oriented but does charitable work, especially in the deaf community.

"They have always had a liquor license since Prohibition and never had a citation. They are so perfect it is unbelievable," he said. "They are not going to run a bar there. They are going to be open limited hours and basically for affairs and functions. And it shouldn't damage the neighborhood whatsoever."

The club lost their previous meeting place on the 6700 block of Bustleton Avenue when the landlord sold the building. They have been looking for a new place for about a year.

Scott Cummings, owner of the Mayfair Catering Club and president of the Mayfair Civic Association, said the athletic club members love the place.

Cummings said the license the athletic club has is known as a club liquor license, which allows for members only and their guests to be in the facility no later than 3 a.m.

"The odds are that they will be open very few times until 3 a.m.," Goldstein said. "It is not one of these places that will be open every night and serving until 3 a.m. It is not a bar; it is used for club functions."

Neighbors, however, are worried that this might become an after-hours club. Cummings said he is willing to put in writing that it will not be used as an after-hours bar.

"There is no actual bar in the place," he said. "There is a moon-bounce, kids games and a pool table."

A petition against bringing the club to the avenue was signed by a majority of residents from the 7200 block of Charles Street.

Ann Atherholt, who lives there and circulated the petition, says the main concern is parking and traffic congestion.

"It has nothing to do with them personally or anything like that," she said.

Atherholt explained that on the 7200 block of Frankford Avenue there are three bars and a bingo hall. Three additional taverns exist just three block south. Across the street on Cottman Ave. are two more bars.

On weekends, Atherholt said, especially if there is an Eagles game, you "can't find a parking spot anywhere for blocks," she said.

"Everybody has just had it," she said. "We have what we have and that's enough. That's how everybody feels."

Goldstein said letters of oppostion were sent to the Liquor Control Board by State Rep. Michael P. McGeehan (D-173), State Senator Michael D. Stack (D-5) and City Councilwoman Joan L. Krajewski (D-6).

McGeehan and Krajewski say they are simply following the wishes of the community.

"I received a letter from Ann Atherholt, and I know her, of course, (because) she is a friend of mine," McGeehan said. "She circulated a petition, and from what I understand everyone on the block signed it and I'm supportive of the neighborhood. Whatever the neighborhood wants, I want."

Chris Creelman, chief of staff for Krajewski, says the neighborhood asked the councilwoman to oppose the idea. After seeing the petition, he says, "we were concerned."

"The area is disastrous," Creelman said. "There are three bars within about 200 feet of each other. There are stores and a bank and you have the bingo hall, which is huge. If you have an event at the bingo hall you can't get parking anywhere. You can't park on Charles Street, Wellington (St.) or Frankford (Ave.).

"It is really crowded," Creelman said, "and it is just too much, it really is. There are just too many things in one spot there."

Goldstein questioned whether opposition from the three were "politically motivated."

Creelman immediately dismissed the notion.

"Yes, I'm related to Mike McGeehan," he said of his brother-in-law. "Everyone knows I'm related and I've been doing this job for seven years. I don't know why it would be an issue now."

Creelman also noted that Ann Atherholt is the sister of Tom Conway, a CLIP executive. CLIP is a neighborhood anti-blight program that is wildly popular and enormously successful. It was founded by Krajewski.

"The fact that (Conway's) sister filed the petition means absolutely nothing," Creelman said. "If you take the make-up of the neighborhood, that's just the fabric of the neighborhood. You mean to tell me that doesn't give Tom's sister the right to file a petition? Tom's brother also lives on the block and I have two friends who live on the block. It is just the way the neighborhood is made up."

"Given the neighborhood, this is not unusual," Creelman said. "The theory that it is a big conspiracy is just not true. Is it coincidental to some degree, I guess, but not when you consider the fabric of the neighborhood. It just comes down to the parking issue."

Both sides await the decision of a liquor board examiner, who will make a recommendation in 30 days. That recommendation is not binding. After that it goesbefore the Liquor Control Board.

©News Gleaner 2004