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APPLICATION EL RANCHO GRANDE (12/17/81)

decided: December 17, 1981.

IN RE APPLICATION OF EL RANCHO GRANDE, INC. APPEAL OF JACK STEVENS, DANIEL GALEOTTI, TOM GLUVER, JOSEPH STUDDER, ROBERT WARRINGER AND TIOGA-POTTER TAVERN OWNERS ASSOCIATION


No. 80-3-722, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at No. 158 C.D. 1979 affirming an Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Potter County at No. 764 of 1978.

COUNSEL

Clifford A. Rieders, Williamsport, for appellant.

George Stenhach and Thur W. Young, Coudersport, for El Rancho Grande.

J. Leonard Langan, Asst. Atty. Gen., James J. Fitzgerald, III, Chief Counsel, Harrisburg, for Liquor Control Bd.

O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Wilkinson, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 496 Pa. Page 499]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from an order of the Commonwealth Court affirming an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Potter County which quashed, for lack of standing, an appeal from a determination by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board ("Board") to grant a liquor license in excess of the prescribed quota for Portage Township. See Act of April 12, 1951, P.L. 90, art. IV, § 461, 47 P.S. § 4-461(a), as amended. We vacate the order of the Commonwealth Court and remand to that court for consideration of the merits of appellants' claim.

Appellants are several individuals who hold liquor licenses in Potter County and the Tioga-Potter Tavern Owners Association ("Association"). The individual appellants participated in a hearing conducted by the Board on the application of El Rancho Grande, Inc. ("Applicant"), which had requested a liquor license for a proposed restaurant in the Township. Over the protests of the individual appellants, the Board approved the application, having determined that Portage Township was a "resort area," see 47 P.S. § 4-461(b), and that facilities provided by the existing license holders were inadequate to meet the needs of the resident and transient population of the area, see Willowbrook Country Club, Inc. Liquor License Case, 409 Pa. 370, 187 A.2d 154 (1962). Claiming that the township was not within a "resort area," that Potter County was already adequately served, and that their businesses would be harmed by the granting of a license in excess of the statutory quota, the individual appellants appealed the Board's ruling to the court of common pleas. Appellant Association sought leave to intervene as an additional appellant, and the court permitted the Association to intervene for the limited purpose of arguing the standing of both itself and the individual appellants. After a hearing at which arguments were presented by

[ 496 Pa. Page 500]

    counsel for all parties, the trial court denied standing to all appellants, stating that it did so "reluctantly." A divided panel of the Commonwealth Court affirmed. In re: Application of El Rancho Grande, Inc., 51 Pa. Commw. 410, 414 A.2d 751 (1980) (Blatt, J., dissenting). We granted allowance of appeal.

Section 464 of the Liquor Code, 47 P.S. § 4-464, sets forth specific classes of persons and institutions who may appeal from the Board's determination to grant or refuse a license:

"Any applicant who has appeared before the board or any agent thereof at any hearing, as above provided, who is aggrieved by the refusal of the board to issue any such license or to renew or transfer any such license may appeal, or any church, hospital, charitable institution, school or public playground located within three hundred feet of the premises applied for, aggrieved by the action of the board in granting the issuance of any such license or the transfer of any such license, may take an appeal limited to the question of such grievance, within twenty days from date of refusal or grant, to the court of quarter sessions of the county in which the premises applied for is located or the county court of Allegheny County. Such appeal shall be upon petition of the aggrieved party, who shall serve a copy thereof upon the board, whereupon a hearing shall be held upon the petition by the court upon ten days' notice to the board, which shall be represented in the proceeding by the Department of Justice. The said appeal shall act as a supersedeas unless upon sufficient cause shown the court shall determine otherwise. The court shall hear the application de novo on questions of fact, administrative discretion and such other matters as are involved, at such time as it shall fix, of which notice shall be given to the board."

Additionally, inhabitants of the neighborhood within five hundred feet of an establishment which has successfully sought a license have been granted standing to appeal on the

[ 496 Pa. Page 501]

    basis of section 404 of the Code. That section sets forth the circumstances in which the Board may grant an application for a hotel, restaurant, or club liquor ...


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