Tyrone shoots down transfer of liquor license

Tyrone Borough Council voted last night to disapprove the transfer of liquor license to a downtown business.
The vote was originally recorded as 6 to 2 to disapprove the transfer for D’Ottavio’s Italian House restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue. However, councilwoman Virgie Werner corrected her “yes” vote to a “no” to make the vote 5 to 3 to disapprove the transfer. The Herald was informed of the change after the meeting.
A public hearing on the transfer was held prior to the vote. Council heard from an attorney for owner Francesco D’Ottavio and D’Ottavio himself about why he wanted to transfer the license from the borough of Hollidaysburg to Tyrone. The council also heard from citizen Don Greene who opposed the transfer of the license.
Council discussed the transfer of the license extensively during the hearing.
D’Ottavio had held the license in escrow. However, the amount of time a license can be held is limited. D’Ottavio’s attorney Phil Robertson explained the limit for holding the license in escrow without transferring it was due to expire next month.
The license permits the sale of all forms of liquor authorized by the state’s Liquor Control Board. Council was informed that D’Ottavio planned to use the license to sell only beer by the six-pack to go or by the bottle or can to eat-in customers. However, some council members expressed concerns about the fact the license could permit the sale of hard liquor if D’Ottavio wanted to do that. It was also noted if D’Ottavio sold the business, a new owner could use the license to create a bar and sell hard liquor.
Council wondered if the license could be changed to only authorize beer sales. They were told the current license would have to be scraped and the business would have to apply for an entirely new license.
After the meeting, Councilman Bill Fink commented about his decision to turn down the request.
“I had a problem with the hard liquor end of it,” said Fink. “I wasn’t comfortable with it in the downtown area.”
Fink said he had previously voted to approve a license transfer for Fat Freddy’s. That business is located outside of the downtown area.
He said of D’Ottavio’s request, “I’m concerned about the location. I’m concerned about the youth.”
Fink also said he would have liked the input of Tyrone Police Chief Joseph Beachem. The chief was not at last night’s meeting.
“I would have felt a lot better if I would have had the chief of police here to give me some information on the operation up there and if there were any problems,” said Fink.
Councilman Stephen Hanzir, Jr. voted against the resolution to disapprove. He said he also had concerns about the transfer but not enough to disapprove it. Hanzir noted D’Ottavio also operates a restaurant in Hollidaysburg. That establishment serves beer and sells it to go.
“I’ve been to his place in Hollidaysburg and I think he’s a legitimate guy,” said Hanzir.
He also commented about concerns at the location in Tyrone that once housed Mario’s Pizza.
“The element that was there before that some may be concerned with, I don’t see groups of kids hanging around out there (now),” said Hanzir. “I don’t see what people were concerned with. It’s basically serving beer with your meal like Pizza Hut.”
In addition to Hanzir and Werner, councilman James Grazier also voted against the disapproval of the transfer. In addition to Fink, council members Don Boytim, Jennifer Bryan, Bill Latchford and Mayor Jim Kilmartin voted in favor of the disapproval.
Tyrone’s solicitor Larry Clapper said D’Ottavio has a right to appeal the council’s decision to the Blair County Court of Common Pleas within 30 days.
After the vote, D’Ottavio told The Daily Herald, “They approved the license (transfers) to other establishments so why not this one.”
D’Ottavio said he might have to consider closing the business, which he has operated in Tyrone for more than a year.