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Becker's Cafe, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Becker's Cafe, Inc.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

June 7, 2013

Becker's Café, Inc., Appellant
v.
Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Becker's Café, Inc.
v.
Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Appellant

Argued: April 16, 2013

BEFORE: HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge.

OPINION

RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge

In these consolidated appeals, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (Board) and Becker's Café, Inc. (Licensee) appeal from an Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (trial court) reversing a decision of the Board and renewing Licensee's restaurant liquor license subject to the condition that it cease serving alcohol by 10:30 p.m. and close by 11:00 p.m. every night. On appeal, the Board argues that the trial court erred and/or abused its discretion by finding that: (1) Licensee was not responsible for the numerous incidents of violence and drug activity on or about the licensed premises; and (2) the remedial steps taken by Licensee were timely and substantial. Both the Board and Licensee argue that the trial court erred and/or abused its discretion by finding that Licensee's license should be conditionally renewed by restricting the hours of operation.

Licensee is located in McKees Rocks, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in a high crime area known as the "Bottoms." (Trial Ct. Op. at 4, 15.) Licensee applied, two days late, for a renewal of its restaurant liquor license for the renewal period of June 1, 2011 to May 31, 2013. Upon review of the renewal application (Application), the Board's Bureau of Licensing advised Licensee that it objected to the renewal based on: (1) five adjudicated violations of the Liquor Code[1] between September 17, 1991 and March 20, 2009; (2) eighteen incidents of disturbance at, or immediately adjacent to, the licensed premises; and (3) the late filing of the Application. (Board Decision at 2-5.) A hearing on the Application was held on July 26, 2011, at which several police officers testified as to twelve incidents of disturbances that occurred in or around the licensed premises during 2010. These incidents involved:

(1) the January 18, 2010 shooting outside Licensee's premises at approximately 10:51 p.m. (Board Decision, Findings of Fact (FOF) ¶¶ 11-16);
(2) the March 9, 2010 walk through of the licensed premises where the police observed a patron, in the bathroom, with a small plastic bag of marijuana (FOF ¶¶ 28-30);
(3) the March 12, 2010 arrest of a female patron for the assault, inside the licensed premises, of another female patron (FOF ¶¶ 55-57);
(4) the March 28, 2010 arrest for public drunkenness outside the licensed premises of an intoxicated male, who was known to police for past drug related offenses, and who had on his person marijuana, crack cocaine and $49.00 in U.S. Currency (FOF ¶¶ 46-50);
(5) the May 13, 2010 observation by the police of a confidential informant's meeting outside the licensed premises with a known drug dealer, who exited the licensed premises, to give the informant crack cocaine (FOF ¶¶ 59-63);
(6) the May 29, 2010 search of the licensed premises for an individual not found on the premises but later arrested in another location for, inter alia, simple assault committed inside the licensed premises (FOF ¶¶ 21-24);
(7) the June 1, 2010 fight at 12:15 a.m. between several females near the licensed premises (FOF ¶¶ 69-70);
(8) the June 23, 2010 assault, inside the licensed premises, of one female patron by another female patron (FOF ¶¶ 71-73);
(9) the July 16, 2010 arrest of an individual exiting the licensed premises for possession of crack cocaine, that the individual stated he purchased from a patron inside the ...

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