Also during its meeting, council unanimously approved the transfer of a state liquor license for a new restaurant being planned at 732 Hamilton St., the former House of Chen.
The exterior of the building will be renovated to give it a more attractive brick-and-stone appearance. Inside, the street-level restaurant will have 100-135 seats.
The property —which is called City Center Hospitality Three LLC -- is owned by developers Joe Topper and J.B. Reilly, who also own three other restaurants sites that already have liquor licenses in the city. They were identified only as City Center Hospitality One, Two and Four.
All of the buildings will have restaurants on the first floor and business and/or residential suites on the upper floors.
The House of Chen had a liquor license, but it already was purchased for City Center’s 536 W. Hamilton St. location, explained Atty. Theodore Zeller, who represented City Center.
A public hearing and council’s approval were required because the license for 732 Hamilton is being transferred from outside the city. That license previously was held by Makensa Restaurant, better known as the former New Smithville Inn, along Old Route 22 in Weisenberg Township.
Despite having liquor licenses, all the new restaurants will be family friendly with Class A operators, said Jim Harbaugh, chief operating officer for City Center.
“We have not chosen operators yet,” said Harbaugh. “We’re looking for quality operators who have done this before and can be successful.” He said they do not want restaurant operators who don’t have a track record of success.
Harbaugh said the developers also are looking at the various food offerings operators will bring to center-city. “We don’t want to wind up with a bunch of similar restaurants. Diversity is very important part of building a restaurant stock in Allentown.”
Harbaugh said liquor licenses are needed to be ready to attract the right restaurant operators.
Only one person spoke at the short public hearing on that license transfer before the 7 p.m. council meeting, where that transfer was approved.
Josh Tucker, who imports wicker and rattan furniture in the building he owns at 730 Hamilton St., expressed concern about loud music coming from the future adjoining restaurant, but said he has no problem with the restaurant getting a liquor license.