Restaurant seeks liquor license from stingy Pa. board

June 08, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

The Chestnut Logs Restaurant has not had a liquor license since it opened 57 years ago. Now that its owners are investing $150,000 in renovations, they want one.

Pennsylvania is stingy with its liquor licenses. State law says only one license is permitted per 3,000 residents in any municipality. And that's only in towns and boroughs that allow liquor to be sold.

Eleven of Franklin County's 15 townships are dry. They include the three bordering the Borough of Chambersburg - Greene, Guilford and Hamilton - plus Antrim, Fannett, Letterkenny, Lurgan, Montgomery, Peters, South Hampton and St. Thomas.


The quotas were established in the 1930s following the repeal of Prohibition. The quota limiting one license per 3,000 in population was established in the early 1990s, said Molly McGowan, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board in Harrisburg.

There are 46 liquor licenses in Franklin County, McGowan said. There are also five liquor stores and eight beer distribution outlets where beer can be bought only by the case. Residents can buy up to two six-packs at taverns and bars, McGowan said.

As the law stands, an owner can only get a liquor license if he or she can buy one from the owner of a existing licensed establishment who is willing to sell, and then only in the same county.

In most cases the license stays with the establishment.

Tom Boock, who has owned the Cottage Pub and Restaurant at 572 Wayne Ave. in Chambersburg for 11 years, said the business has had the same license since 1933.

"It's had a succession of owners over the years," Boock said.

He said hotels and private clubs are not governed by the state's quota rule on liquor licenses.

Until two years ago, a license could only be transferred from one establishment to another in the same municipality. The law has since been changed to allow transfers between municipalities but only within the same county, McGowan said.

Because of the change, George Harrison and Eric Eiker, owners of the Chestnut Logs Restaurant, were able to buy the liquor license of Paul and Elaine Gulla, owners of Gulla's Tavern in South Mountain, Pa., for 29 years. The tavern is in Quincy Township.

Elaine Gulla said she and her husband are retiring. She described the tavern as a local bar that served short-order food.

Harrison declined to say how much he paid the Gullas for their liquor license.

In some areas, licenses sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, McGowan said. The liquor control board does not keep track of how much licenses sell for, she said.

They sometimes are worth more than the actual business, Boock said.

The Washington Township Supervisors last week passed a resolution in support of the license transfer for the Chestnut Logs Restaurant.

The Herald-Mail Articles