ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Allentown City Council will petition the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to exempt the Maingate Nightclub and other West End Theatre District establishments from state noise ordinances.
The decision, made during Wednesday night's council meeting, was unanimous.
To make their argument, the council will cite a 2002 law which allows municipalities to designate certain areas exempt from the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE). By making the request, the city in essence wants to acquire the responsibility of monitoring amplified music heard beyond premises boundaries from Maingate and the other businesses under guidelines established in the city's own noise ordinance.
During Wednesday night's meeting, Councilman Edward Zucal questioned Maingate owner Dominic Germano about what he's done to mitigate noise. Maingate closed its nightclub last December after the BLCE issued various noise violations to the establishment. Those violations jeopardize the business's liquor license. The establishment is located at 17th and Liberty streets.
In response, Germano said he did a "total renovation" of the club and is able to "monitor the decibels." At one point, Germano indicated he had "removed over half the sound system."
Under further questioning by Zucal, Germano said that he "could not get a handle" as to the nature of the complaints filed with the BLCE. Given this, he could not respond to them in a "scientific" manner.
Germano further indicated that he is unable to face those making the accusations. As such, he is not sure from where they are emanating or their legitimacy. If the city takes over the process he would be able to face his accusers. Complaints made to state regulators are anonymous.
He insinuated the clientele are driving the complaints.
"You wonder why this business didn't have all these issues for the first 35 years," he said.
The business has been in his family for 40 years.
Supporting this idea was Councilwoman Candida Affa.
"This is not a nuisance bar," she said. "… This is this man's livelihood."
Affa then relayed a story about herself. For 37 years, she said, she operated a gay tavern. The establishment initially prompted noise complaints from some neighbors. She insinuated those complaints were baseless and made by homophobes. She suspects the noise complaints made against Maingate are racially motivated and thus, baseless.
The city alleges the state enforcement in this case is too harsh. They cite this establishment and the others are in an entertainment district. As such, the noise regulations are too strict and should be regulated more liberally.
If the city is successful, they will dispatch the police, who will be tasked with enforcement, to work with Maingate to keep the noise on the right side of the law.
Whether the petition is successful is the decision of the Liquor Control Board, which will hold a public hearing in the theatre district in the next 60 days and then render a decision on what impact it would have on the community.
The city's proposed exemption zone weaves south of Tilghman Street along the east side of 19th Street. It then heads east along the north side of Liberty Street before heading south at 17th Street to include Maingate, according to city documents.
In other news, the council approved the appointment of John Stanley to the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority by unanimous vote.
Finally, the legislative body approved a resolution urging the United States Congress to approve the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019. The bill would impose a national carbon fee on fossil fuels based on the amount of CO2 the fuel will emit when burned. The proceeds of the collection will be allocated to all U.S. households in equal shares in the form of a monthly dividend.