Howard F. Reed, Jr., E. Walter Helm, III, Media, for appellant.
William P. Thorn and Duane, Morris & Heckscher, Philadelphia, for Oakmont Volunteer Fire Co.
Edmund P. Hannum, Sp. Deputy Atty.Gen., Horace A. Segelbaum, Deputy Atty.Gen., Robert E. Woodside, Atty. Gen., for Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Reno, Dithrich, Ross, Gunther and Wright, JJ.
[ 173 Pa. Super. Page 560]
Walter R. Subers applied to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for a new restaurant liquor license. After a hearing the Board filed an opinion and order refusing the grant of the license, and the applicant thereupon appealed to the court below. After a hearing de novo before the court en banc an order was filed dismissing the appeal and sustaining the action of the Board on the ground that one of the protestants, the Oakmont Fire Company No. 1, is a charitable institution; that a plot of ground adjoining the said fire house is a public playground; and the applicant's establishment is located within three hundred feet of both. This appeal by the applicant followed.
The pivotal question is whether a volunteer fire company is a 'charitable institution' within the meaning of the Liquor Code of April 12, 1951, P.L. 90, § 404, 47 P.S. § 4-404. The section contains the proviso: 'That in the case of any new license or the transfer of any license to a new location the board may, in its discretion, grant or refuse such new license or transfer if such place proposed to be licensed is within three hundred feet of any church, hospital, charitable institution, school, or public playground * * *.'
The charter of the Oakmont Fire Company No. 1 indicates it was incorporated for the maintenance and support of a fire engine, hook and ladder, and hose company for the control of fire. The evidence establishes that the company makes no charge for its services which are rendered without discrimination, and that funds required for its operations are obtained from voluntary contributions of the residents of the fire zone served by the company, the Board of Commissioners of
[ 173 Pa. Super. Page 561]
Haverford Township, and investments of the company. It has no capital stock and no profits or dividends are paid or distributed to individual members of the company. It owns a fire house approximately 52 feet from appellant's premises. The company not only protects the community from the hazards of fire but also maintains and uses equipment for emergency aid to persons and for the protection of property. Its origin, organization, functions, objects and methods of operation clearly establish the company as a charitable institution. 10 Am.Jur., Charities, § 134. No less applicable here is the statement of Mr. Justice Paxson in Fire Insurance Patrol v. Boyd, 120 Pa. 624, 646, 15 A. 553, 556, 1 L.R.A. 417: 'Our conclusion is that the Fire Insurance Patrol of Philadelphia is a public charitable institution; that in the performance of its duties it is acting in aid and in ease of the municipal government in the preservation of life and property at fires.'
Appellant contends the purpose for so broad a definition of 'charitable institution' which, it is conceded, includes volunteer fire companies, is to protect the funds of private groups serving the public interest from dissipation by suits and from individuals seeking pecuniary gain. This purpose, it is argued, is remote from the purposes for which the Liquor Code was enacted and therefore the term 'charitable institution', as used in the Liquor Code, does not include volunteer fire companies. This contention is without merit. There is no basis for ascribing a restricted meaning to the words 'charitable institution' so as to limit its application to organizations similar to the others specifically enumerated in § 404 of the Liquor Code. Churches, hospitals, schools ...