Coalport MinitMart

Coalport Borough Council denied Nittany Oil Co.’s request to transfer a liquor license from Lawrence Township to allow it to sell beer at its local store following a public hearing Sept. 9. Following the company’s appeal, Clearfield County Court has directed the borough to provide facts behind its denial.

COALPORT — Borough Council reported on Monday that Nittany Oil Co., State College, owner of the local Minit Mart convenience store, has filed a civil action complaint against the borough in the Clearfield County Court of Common Pleas.

The appeal was filed Oct. 4 following a decision made by council at its Sept. 9 meeting to deny the company’s request to transfer a liquor license into the borough that would allow the store located at 1135 Main St., Coalport, to sell liquor.

The document notes the borough received a written request from Nittany, dated Aug. 9, asking council to schedule a public hearing on the company’s petition to transfer the license. On Sept. 9, as part of its monthly business meeting, council held a properly-advertised public meeting regarding the company’s request, the complaint states.

The complaint notes the company’s legal counsel, Attorney Mark Kozar of Flaherty & O’Hara Professional Corporation, Pittsburgh, and its Operations Manager Emerson Reams attended the Sept. 9 hearing and addressed council, borough business owners and residents, regarding the company’s plans to sell beer and wine at the store and expand the facility to add seating for up to 30 people so that it would meet state requirements.

Reams also noted if Nittany could acquire the license, the expansion would include a beer cave that would be open from 7 a.m. to 1:45 a.m. daily.

At the Sept. 9 hearing, about 10 business owners and residents spoke asking council to deny the request. Their reasons included the expanded store would take sales away from existing borough businesses who are already selling liquor, the close proximity of the store to both the Coalport United Methodist Church and the Assembly of God Church and their belief an additional source of liquor sales could add to the existing problems with vandalism and loitering in close proximity to the store.

Several council members said, following council’s vote, they voted no to the liquor license transfer request because they wanted to support both local businesses who are already licensed establishments and resident’s concerns.

The petition states council failed to issue a written resolution denying Nittany’s request as required by the state’s liquor code and failed to set forth findings of fact for the denial. “Consequently, Nittany is unable to identify specific reasons the borough denied Nittany’s request for the intermunicipal transfer of the license and accordingly Nittany is unable to set forth the specific grounds upon which the borough erred,” it notes.

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It asks the court to determine whether council’s decision was in accordance with the law and whether the company’s rights were violated and requests its appeal be granted.

Following the announcement at Monday’s meeting, council discussed the complaint opting to send the document to Attorney Ryan Sayers of Clearfield, who was hired as the borough’s solicitor at Monday’s meeting.

Councilman Kevin Swauger said he believed a meeting should be held between council and the borough’s business owners and residents who attended the public hearing and urged council to deny Nittany’s request.

“I think we should schedule a meeting and ask the business owners what they want us to do. We want to support local businesses,” Swauger said.

President Barby Trent agreed.

“I think business owners have the right to discuss this with council.” She also noted as did Councilman Joe Adams, the borough does not have funds to fight the complaint.

Council set Monday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. as the date for the meeting.