COALPORT — Coalport Borough Council unanimously denied a petition from Nittany Oil Co. that would have allowed the Coalport MinitMart to acquire a license to sell liquor at its store.
About 10 residents and business owners attended the public hearing that was held prior to Monday’s regular meeting. Council voted against the company’s request.
Attorney Mark Kozar of Flaherty & O’Hara Professional Corporation, Pittsburgh, and Operations Manager Emerson Reym attended the meeting to discuss the store’s plans to expand and remodel the facility to add restaurant seating for 30 customers, making it eligible to acquire a liquor license.
In a letter to council, Kozar wrote, “In order to open and operate its restaurant in Coalport, MinitMart must secure a liquor license. No Coalport license was available for sale so MinitMart has entered into an agreement to purchase a liquor license currently located in Lawrence Township. MinitMart plans on moving this license from outside of Coalport into Coalport with the approval of the borough, pursuant to the inter-municipal transfer provisions of the Liquor Code.”
Reym said the MinitMart has been a member of the Coalport community for years and has been a good neighbor. He said if Nittany could acquire the license, it would build an addition to house restaurant seating and a beer cave that would be open from 7 a.m. to 1:45 a.m. daily. The addition would be built behind the existing structure, allowing the existing store to remain open during construction.
Several council members said their desire to support Coalport businesses and organizations that are already serving liquor was the reason they voted no.
“I don’t want to see local businesses hurt,” said Councilman Kevin Swauger.
Others pointed to alcohol as creating health and addiction issues for residents. Councilman Rev. Gerald Spaid said.
“I’m a no vote. I don’t want to be an enabler. As a chaplain, I deal with the raw problems alcohol causes,” Spaid said.
Councilman Jack Rupp said he is concerned about the potential for alcohol at the MinitMart to fuel vandalism and crime.
“This worries me. Who will police this? It takes time for the state police to come here.”
Councilman Calvin Glass said although he did not support the company’s request to acquire a liquor license, but he is grateful for the store and the convenience it offers residents.
“People are glad to stop there at 5 a.m. to get gas and get coffee. They wouldn’t have anywhere to do this if it wasn’t for the MinitMart.”
Most of the 10 residents attending the meeting spoke in opposition to Nittany Oil Co. being able to secure the liquor license. Several had different reasons about why they believed council should oppose the request. They pointed out because the store is open 24 hours, it is often the early morning hangout spot for a group of young adults.
“There’s already lots of trouble at the MinitMart now — you want to add alcohol? Residents of this town won’t be able to sleep at all,” said Resident Pam Rutter.
Some pointed out the close proximity of both the Coalport United Methodist Church and the Assembly of God Church to the store. A member of the Glendale Assembly of God Church said he did not approve of any alcohol being sold in the borough.
“We don’t need it around our children,” he explained.
Harry and Christine Semelsberger, representing Cossick’s Central Hotel, told council the family-owned business has been in existence for 100 years and during those years, it has supported the community by donating to school and borough organizations and by hiring residents who pay borough taxes and patronize other community businesses.
The Semelsbergers reported the hotel, because of the local economy and more stringent state regulations, is finding it increasingly difficult to remain viable.
“The likelihood of this going in could put us under. It’s not fair,” Harry Semelsberger said. “We built it and they are coming to take it over,” Christine Semelsberger explained.
Kozar told council he is unsure what the company would choose to do about council’s denial of its request.
“Typically what happens is these things go to the Court of Common Pleas,” he said.