Germantown residents packed a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board hearing late last week with hopes of swaying the state agency to shut down a takeout beer business that, they say, is plaguing the neighborhood.
For years, neighbors have complained about violence, public drunkenness, loitering and littering outside and near Lee’s Steaks & Hoagies on Germantown Avenue, a busy shopping and transportation hub.
Now that the business’ conditional liquor license is up for renewal, community stakeholders think there’s a chance they’ll achieve their goal.
“They demonstrated that they don’t want to follow the rules. The community is fed up and, quite frankly, we are too,” said Stacey Wright, chief of staff for state Rep. Stephen Kinsey, whose district includes the deli.
Over the past two years, Lee’s has violated its conditional licensing agreement. Most of Thursday’s three-hour hearing zeroed in on security regulations that require employees to pat down customers and patrol the outside of the business.
During her time on the witness stand, co-owner Lisa Ky said she has security on site that does its best to move along people who aren’t paying customers, as well as those who routinely loiter outside the deli after buying beer.
“They’re just like a fly,” said Ky. “They come back.”
Ky and her employees said they regularly patrol the outside of the business — every hour or two. They said they don’t pat down customers inside, partially out of fear that it would lead to confrontations and partially because they don’t let them.
“It’s harassing to touch them,” said Ky.
At times, residents groaned or shook their heads during Ky’s testimony.
Near the start of the hearing, Joe Martin, who owns a daycare center up the street, testified that his employees no longer take children to nearby Vernon Park because of constant loitering outside of the deli.
“I don’t, my parents don’t, want our kids exposed to that type of environment,” said Martin.
Lee’s neighbors the park. Martin said the only way to safely shuttle children there is to cross at a light a few feet away. The next light is three blocks past the park.
“It’s a disaster,” added Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass during her testimony.
After the hearing, Ky said neighbors are unfairly targeting her business. She said there are several other businesses in the area that also sell alcohol.
“I do my best,” she said.
It could be months before the PCLB rules on the case.