CLEARFIELD – Clearfield Borough Council held a public hearing last night regarding a liquor license transfer for Buck’s Pizza. A special meeting followed to vote on the license transfer, which received approval.
First to speak was Josh Benton, Buck’s Pizza owner, saying he looked forward to being a part of the community. Lance Benton, a principal of Buck’s Pizza and in whose name the license transfer is, verified application details.
Attorney Chris Pentz, representing borough businesses that had previously petitioned council opposing the license transfer, said he interprets the state Liquor Control Board statute as promoting municipalities to develop their own ordinances for handling liquor license applications. He presented an ordinance from State College Borough for council’s review.
Pentz stressed council must consider the long-term effects of their decisions and how it may affect future generations of Clearfield. He said the borough should encourage restaurants without liquor licenses and noted the increased competition could have a diverse effect on the current bar businesses.
Pentz pointed out a church stands with an unobstructed view directly across the river from the proposed Buck’s Pizza. He also expressed concerns for added traffic issues for an already congested traffic area.
Mike Morrison, a bar owner, said he was concerned that if council allowed the license transfer, it may snowball and more applications will follow.
Greg Hallstrom, owner of Busters Sports Bar, asked if the application had prior approval. He said there’s a placard at the proposed Buck’s Pizza that he thought showed the transfer had been approved.
Borough Operations Manager Leslie Stott verified there was no approval prior to the public hearing. Josh Benton noted the placard only shows there’s activity on the application for the license.
Mark McCracken, Clearfield County Commissioner, supported the license transfer and proposed business. He said a key part of the Clearfield County Economic Development Corp.’s Riverfront project is to build downtown Clearfield and encourage new businesses.
McCracken said the Lezzer’s and Benton’s want to make a positive impact on the area. He noted Buck’s Pizza is a family restaurant that’ll provide jobs, promote economic development and redevelop an empty building. He asked council to support the license transfer.
Resident Christy Fulton said she supported Buck’s Pizza. She reviewed the eight existing liquor licenses in the borough, including Aunt Mary’s Place, Railroad Street Tavern, Busters, St. Charles, Dingers, Legends, Moena’s and Hedges.
She said all eight have different atmospheres. She said Buck’s Pizza fits in with the Riverfront project and the area goals of promoting tourism. She also noted there’s a lot of support from DuBois residents who want to see a Buck’s Pizza in Clearfield.
Rob Swales, CCEDC chief executive officer, told council his board supported the Buck’s Pizza project. He said it meets CCEDC recommendations of reinvestment and revitalization of a vacant property and blighted site, bringing in outside developers and enhancing the borough’s property and income tax base. He noted the location is supportive of the Riverfront Redevelopment Project.
Chris Bohley, the developer’s engineer for the Buck’s Pizza project, verified the facility is 427 feet from the church across the river. He noted there’s an existing liquor license business that’s closer.
Bohley said the proposed facility will be a restaurant, not a bar. He noted the existing Buck’s Pizza in DuBois reported only 5 percent of their total sales is in liquor, and they only sell beer and wine, not liquor.
K.C. Lezzer, owner of the property at Park Place, Clearfield, said the Buck’s Pizza project is close to a $1 million investment. Lezzer said he’d verified the traffic studies done for the new CVS Pharmacy did include the previous CVS building as an active business site.
After the hearing, Bell said the PLCB statute requires the municipality decision on a liquor license be by ordinance or resolution. Bell recommended by resolution. Bell also had determined that no member of council had a conflict of interest to require them to abstain from voting.
Councilman Lew Duttry said he wanted to stress that council wasn’t setting a precedent with this decision and that each case is separate.
After a brief discussion, a roll-call vote was called for. The vote was nearly unanimous in favor of approving the inter-municipal liquor license transfer from Sandy Township to Clearfield Borough. The only “no” vote was from Councilman Richard Stewart Jr.
Stewart stated after the meeting that he supported Buck’s Pizza, but voted no because he had some unanswered questions, particularly whether Buck’s Pizza could operate without a liquor license. He said he also supported the existing liquor businesses in the borough and was aware of their concerns.
Council plans to refer the suggestions regarding a liquor license ordinance to the Borough Planning Commission to address any future applications.