Maggie’s Café remains heated topic in East Torresdale
They’ve been in contact with more government offices and agencies than they ever could’ve imagined or feared.
City Council, the Department of Licenses and Inspections, the Department of Streets, the Police Department, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement and Common Pleas Court are among them.
Yet, a group of East Torresdale residents opposed to operations at Maggie’s Waterfront Café say they still haven’t gotten the satisfaction they’ve been looking for.
During the June 13 meeting of the East Torresdale Civic Association, a representative from yet another government entity — the city’s Commission on Human Relations — proposed another possible solution to their problems.
Meanwhile, the newly hired zoning attorney for Maggie’s briefed neighbors on the business’ plans for expansion. The bar/restaurant is on North Delaware Avenue just south of Arendel Street.
“It’s really an act of faith on both sides. The little promises are building blocks,” said Jonah Roll, a member of the commission’s community relations staff, speaking of the agency’s community mediation process.
Since the bar/restaurant opened two years ago, many neighbors have been at odds with the facility over a variety of issues including outdoor dining and music, parking on nearby residential lots and alleged misconduct by patrons outside the business.
Other neighbors say they regularly patronize the business and have spoken in support of its operation.
In response to complaints, the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections and the state’s Liquor Control Enforcement have each issued code violations notices to the business. In response, owner Kevin Goodchild has scaled back some outdoor activity while seeking to extend the site’s permitted uses to adjacent lots that he also owns.
Those expansion plans don’t sit well with opponents of the business, who claim that Goodchild has disregarded prior demands by neighbors that he turn down the music and keep a check on disruptive behavior around his establishment.
“He just took everything too far,” one neighborhood woman said. “I don’t mind the tables he has now, but it carries on into the night, and that’s what people don’t want.”
“If he wants to take it all inside, I don’t think people will have a problem with it,” another woman said.
But the proprietor has other plans in mind. Speaking briefly at the meeting, Goodchild said the size of his investment in the waterfront property dictates that he maximize income there.
So he has applied to the city for several new zoning-related permits. One application is to consolidate the Maggie’s property with a vacant lot immediately to the north once occupied by a catering business, as well as an empty residential property to the south, where he wants to legalize customer parking.
Neighbors complain that his customers already park on the lot in violation of the existing zoning.
“If it’s denied, I will be applying for a variance,” said Shawn Ward, Goodchild’s zoning attorney.
The business is also applying for a “special assembly license” that would allow it to play music within certain parameters. Ward argued that because the site has been home to a bar for decades, music playing should be “grandfathered” there. The city ordinance creating the special assembly license was adopted in 2005, the attorney said.
Further, Goodchild will apply for multiple additions, including men’s and women’s bathrooms that would have indoor access and, ultimately, outdoor access if outdoor dining is later approved for the business.
Goodchild also hopes to build a new walk-in refrigerator at the rear of the existing restaurant.
Ward said that the owner is willing to compromise with neighbors on their key issues.
“If we don’t come to an agreement, we expect people will come down and hash it out before the Zoning Board [of Adjustment],” Ward said. “Our goal is to come to an agreement before then.”
A zoning hearing has been scheduled for July 6, but Ward said that the applicant would request a postponement if progress is made with neighbors before then. An ETCA executive board meeting is scheduled for June 27.
The group’s next general meeting, which is open to the public, will be on Tuesday, July 5, at 7 p.m., at Liberty Evangelical Free Church, Linden Avenue and Milnor Street.
In unrelated topics:
• A construction engineer from the Philadelphia Water Department told residents that water and sewer main construction on State Road, between Linden and Grant avenues, would continue through December.
Total repaving may not be finished by then, however, although the four-lane State Road would be passable. In such a case, paving would be done after the winter.
ETCA vice president Bill Kennedy said that the civic association would continue to lobby project officials for more tree plantings along State Road. Crews cut down 52 decades-old trees along the street, Kennedy said.
The civic group wants four young trees planted for every mature one taken down to account for the smaller size of the new plantings, as well as the likelihood that many of the trees will not survive for the long term.
• The ETCA took an official “no position” on an application by a local commercial property owner to build a family home on the site of his construction company’s headquarters at 9309-13 James St.
Longtime neighborhood resident George Ashcroft said he plans to live in the new house with his family, despite the light industrial zoning. ••