BYOB Ordinance Voted Down: A Response, by Danina DiBattista

On July 10th, 2012, the Bellevue council voted down an idea of running a 45 day trial period for allowing customers at BYOB establishments within this “dry” town to enjoy their libations at designated outdoor seating areas. This vote came after 3 months of vigorous debate within the committee meetings, pre-council, and council meetings. I total of 10 meetings of discussion. The issue was presented to committee THREE times, and was stonewalled for 3 months. Finally, Mark Helbling made a motion to advertise that they were going to vote on it, which lead to 3 more weeks of waiting, and the vote was made on 7/10/12.

They stonewalled it so much that they had to squeeze the 2nd and 3rd reading into one night, followed by the actual vote. Mark Helbling had proposed that instead of voting to change the current ordinance, that they vote to allow a 45 day trial period of the outdoor BYOB. If there were no problems within that 45 day period, they could then vote on changing the actual ordinance. Many of you are probably wondering why the council would vote this idea down? Well as many of you probably know, very rarely do you see people leaving restaurants and falling on their faces from intoxication. It rarely happens. Bars, maybe. But we’re not talking about bars. And the council knows this, as they’re NOT stupid individuals. They have an agenda of keeping Bellevue “dry”, and in their eyes, changing the ordinance to allow BYOB outside, is just one step closer to Bellevue becoming “wet”. They are well aware that the chances of  problems being reported from the 45 day trial is slim to none. So it would basically give them no “out” when it comes to voting on changing the ordinance 45 days later.

The corruption within this council is incomprehensible. It was very clear to me, and to the rest of the audience that the 5 council members that voted down the 45 day trial had already discussed and made their decision on this issue far before any discussion was made on the subject on July 10th. I had asked council what their concerns were with the issue on multiple occasions, only to be met with little to no conversation about it. It was clear to me after the first committee meeting that there is an agenda within this council and nothing can sway them from it, not even the pleas of a business owner whose family has lived in Bellevue since 1996, and whose family has owned businesses in town since 2000. The council repeatedly tried to link the failed alcohol referendum of 2011 with the outdoor BYOB debate. The two issues are not related. They’re related in the councils eyes because it’s an easy way out for them. They feel that they’re doing what best for the town, or at least that’s what they’d like you to believe. This council has played a part in the fleeing of multiple small, independent businesses. Pretty soon, Bellevue will be left with dollar stores, check cashing businesses, tobacco stores, and the new addition of a pawn shop (located about 20 feet from the stairs to Bellevue elementary). A stark reminder that these businesses could care less about the community. The small, independent businesses are invested here, many owners live in the borough, and they CARE. I asked a question to council last night, I asked what types of businesses they’d like to see take over the vacant store fronts in town? I said that it was clear that the kind of good businesses that they’ve chased out are not what’s on their agenda, so what types of businesses are? Needless to say, I received zero responses. The proof in in the pudding.

It’s quite unfortunate that the growth and prosperity of an entire town rides on the decisions of 9 people within the walls of borough hall. For 3 months, the public has shown up to meetings demanding that they re-think their governing tactics, and re-think their personal agendas, and consider the fact that the majority of audience members are there in opposition to the agendas that council insists on imposing upon the members of this community. Very rarely do you hear members of the audience state how much they approve of councils agenda. How do the voices of the community keep getting pushed away? Is it not the job of those elected public servants to listen to what the community is saying and vote accordingly? Why have egos, power moves, and personal agendas gotten in the way of allowing the community to prosper? Why is it ok for members of council to consistently vote ordinances in on a whim of “want” instead of a “dire need”? While at the same time, vote “no” to something that clearly works so well all over the world? Allowing beverages outside is not something new, it’s done all over the world. Many have pointed this fact out to them, but it fell on deaf ears. It’s not that they weren’t listening or didn’t believe it, it’s that it doesn’t fall in line with their agenda, so they don’t care. A burning ordinance was put in place to appease the complaining of ONE person, who managed to get a few people to jump on board with her. I presented the council with a petition of 500 signatures paired with lots of candid comments made by the people that signed.  ONE chronic complainer = a new ordinance that effects thousands of people in town.  500 signatures = no progress for a small business with its roots in Bellevue. How does this happen?

Unfortunately, they just don’t care. I will once again ask the public, the council members, and any other person that would like to give an answer to this question… WHO BENEFITS FROM A DECLINING TOWN?

Voting breakdown for the 45 day trial was as follows:

Kathy Coder – YES
Jane Braunlich – NO
Jim Scicianni – NO
Mark Helbling – YES
Linda Woshner – NO
Jim Viscussi – NO
Lynn Heffley – ABSENT
Sue Viscussi – No
Frank Camello – YES

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17 Responses to “BYOB Ordinance Voted Down: A Response, by Danina DiBattista”

  1. Two other points to ponder: 1. I have yet to hear a reason why the other members of council are voting no.
    2. Bellevue has no open container law….so people can stand in front of the restaurants and drink what they want, but they can’t sit down and eat their meal and drink a beverage. Again we are disenfranchising the good businesses in our town who want to draw in people and create a thriving downtown. This rationale makes no sense. Once again, let’s be a town that is on the side of our business district. Not putting up ridiculous roadblocks so they move to other towns. We already have a reputation of being difficult to work with.

  2. Kathy, I completely agree! I inquired multiple times (at least 10 times) over the past 3.5 months about what they were concerned about, why they would vote no, ect…
    During the council meeting, after the vote, 4 members of the audience inquired with them about why they voted the way that they did…there was nothing but crickets. What about being held accountable for the way a vote goes? When the people that supply the tax dollars for the salary that council receives ask a question, I Beleive they deserve an answer. If the public doesn’t ask about it, then there’s no need to explain. The lack of transparency paired with the massive egos of the members of council who are so afraid to let go of their power will be the downfall of this town. The “cause I said so” reaction that members of council give to the public is the thorn in the side of this town. They fail to realize that THEY WORK FOR US, not the other way around. Luckily for the people in town that are ready to see it go in a better direction, these 6 people have pretty much solidified the fact that there’s little chance for them to be reelected. Bellevue needs some new blood on council. Some younger people with knowledge of current events, social media skills, marketing skills, willingness to actually get out and about in the borough and ASK the people and business owners what they’d like to see change, business/commerce/economic knowledge, and experience with what DOESN’T work for this town that we all love.

    If property values go up, and the school district gets better, and the taxes go down…who doesn’t benefit?

    Kathy Coder, Mark Helbling, and Frank Camelo seem to be the only members of council that are listening to the public. The rest are just doing what they have to do to keep their agenda. Jim Viscussi was quoted in an article saying that he voted “no” to the outdoor BYOB because the people of Bellevue said no to alcohol. News Flash: the people of Bellevue did not vote NO to alcohol. They voted no to liquor licenses. There’s a massive difference between those two things.

  3. It is quite clear to anyone who reads any coverage of this issue that Bellevue Council members INTENTIONALLY impede Bellevue businesses from earning money and bringing new customers to our community. Our two most notable restaurants – Bite Bistro and Thai Suan Thip – feature outdoor seating. TI firmly believe that this ordinance was essentially filibustered then defeated once a vote was forced OUT OF SPITE for Danina and her family’s vocal participation in Bellevue for the last 15 years including but not limited to two unsuccessful referendums for alcohol sales. Council VP Jim Viscusi’s cheap attempt to explain his “no” vote was ignorantly relating BYOB to the alcohol service referendum. As pointed out above, the two aren’t related. Instead of giving a local business that keeps two young entrepreneurs in town and attracts outsiders to Bellevue, they continue to handicap one of our marquis businesses. Council continues to tell us they know what is best for Bellevue while more and more citizens grow frustrated with their short-sighted insular leadership.

    There. It’s out there. I, Scott Irlbacher, believe these six members of Council had no intention of considering this ordinance and conspired to defeat the resolution out of spite toward the DiBattista family.

    • I stand with you Scott. The six members of council are more concerned about personal vendettas than they are the welfare and health of the community they were elected to lead. Linda Woshner, Jane Braunlich, Jim Viscusi, Susan Viscusi, Jim Scisciani, and Lynn Heffley must be held accountable for their actions.

  4. Oh yea, Tom, booze is always good for the heath and welfare of a community, isn’t it?! Get real people.

    • Note that the ‘health and welfare of a community’ can be seen in business terms, as opposed to the health and welfare of an individual, Gayle, which is how you seem to be perceiving it. How are there so many thriving Towns, communities, and cities serving alcohol if it is such a detriment? Why are good restaurants leaving Bellevue and no new ones coming in with all our empty store fronts? How dare we want successful restaurants! And to address your health concerns, studies have shown that a glass of wine a day is good for your heart. Cheers!

  5. Gayle, please share the name of one successful business district that prohibits alcohol sales that immediately comes to mind. Ask the citizens of Wilkinsburg how being dry helps their business district.

  6. It appears that those that are responsible drinkers,that just like to enjoy one now and again, and understand that personal responsibility is important, are ok with the byob law. Does that mean that those that are against it are not reponsible drinkers who probably over do it and are too reliant on other folks to tell them what is responsible because they cant decide for themself?

    Just thinking out loud here because it appears that everytime someone says no, it is in a sarcastic tone, with a couple of good exclamation points and questions marks added to the end, but never an actual reason why they believe what they believe.

    Gayle, I’ll bite. Your question asks “Booze is always good for the health and welfare of a community, isnt it?” Can you please explain why you think the booze is good idea? Or, as I am suspecting, you are indeed being sarcastic (again) and maybe you can list your reasons why you think that sitting at a table outside a restaurant having an alcoholic beverage is not good for a community.

    Your comment doesnt appear to want a response and I can only figure that it is because you made the statement and you have no justification for your statement. One can then only assume, that it is because you feel important that people are engaing in conversation with you so you are acting out in order to keep that going. Its ok to agree with us. We will be just as welcoming.

    Have a great day!
    Mark

  7. I have said all along….it is not if you are for or against “alcohol” that is the issue. Allowing alcohol to be sold and served in a restaurant is really only one piece in the bigger puzzle of helping our business district and town be competitive. Unfortunately it is the restaurant owners and the town of Bellevue who are suffering when people are still allowed to bring their bottle of wine and drink alcohol….Think about it- People go to a store outside of Bellevue to buy their beverage and the tax goes to the State (retails store) and the town where the store resides. The Bellevue restaurant may get a small corking fee, but does not make any income and in return none of the tax comes back to Bellevue.
    As far as the health and welfare of the people….I think when people bring their own bottle they drink more. If you are paying $6-$8 for a glass of wine you are not going to drink as much verses when someone spends $10 for a bottle and thinks we might as well drink the whole thing and not carry it home…..However if we are really concerned about the health and welfare of our community, let’s look at all the other things that are destroying us. The next time you are driving down LIncoln Ave. count the number of people who are smoking-PLUS we have three tobacco stores on the Avenue. Some people think government knows best and should be in the job of protecting people. So maybe their next mission should be a ban on cigarette smoking and not allowing people to buy cigarettes in the business district? I believe there are a lot more deaths as a result of smoking verses a glass of wine with dinner……Scott to your question about other towns that are dry….Beaver would serve as a dry town role model. If you’ve never been there, you should go check it out; A lot of really good restaurants, free parking, beautiful brick sidewalks, clean and bustling, Oh….but then again they are permitted to sit outside and enjoy their BYOB.

  8. Kathy, I think Beaver is the exception. It also helps they are the county seat, but the business district certain is not shutting down at 5pm like ours.

  9. I think Beaver is a unique situation because it’s not located close to a major city like Pittsburgh. People that live in/near big cities often enjoy the convenience of nightlife, dining, etc… So as much of a great example of a flourishing dry town Beaver may be, the circumstances that differentiate Beaver from Bellevue are pretty apparent. People move to Beaver to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. People that live near the city aren’t looking to get away from the city life.

    Small businesses that are BYOB can flourish in that area because there aren’t many other regions to compete with. The competition is low. In Bellevue, businesses are in competition with the rest of the city. So there’s some major economical differences between the two regions.

    Gayle, I hope that small tid bit of info helped to “simplify” things a little for you, since you seem to think that you know so much about what is “healthy” for me and for a business district. I will leave you with a quote that I came across the other day, perhaps it will make you feel better about being mislead about economics.
    “It’s no crime to be ignorant of economics…But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” ~ Murray Rothbard

  10. First of all, Mark, I worked out my self esteem issues (I’m quite content w/life, thank you) a long time ago, so please don’t play the Lib card, twisting my words and meaning, to make me appear someone I’m not. And, if you can’t tell,whether I was being sarcastic, perhaps (no insult intended) you might want to ponder and think a bit longer on what others write, before you respond. Meantime, I’ll answer your question re:health and welfare in relationship to alcohol, since Lib, Kathy Coder, and others refuse to consider the pitfalls, 1. Bellevue streets are too narrow for drivers who may have had too much to drink.. And let me tell you, if people can afford to pay $6-$8 for a glass of wine, on top of what they’ll have to pay for the fine dining experience, they’ll be able to afford more than one glass. As a matter-of-fact, my own experience has been to purchase an entire bottle. And if Bellevue becomes a Sewickley or Shadyside, as your intent seems to be, let me tell you, wealthy people get just as drunk as middle and lower class. 2.There’s a grade school on the main avenue, as well as other youth walking the borough sidewalks to and from school. Is it really healthy for them to see people drinking, IN PARTICULAR, on the avenue? Can’t any place be free from ALL drugs?! Can’t Bellevue be good for ALL people? And Kathy, as we both know, smoking has nothing to do with the subject at hand, and using it as a simile makes absolutely no sense (Unless you brought it up because…Naahh.) Afterall, you were discussing matters of revenue to the borough. How much of a ‘debit’ has smoking brought to the borough treasury? And as for government interference, seems Lib is good at that, too. I think we all know the REAL reason Lib is going around ‘inspecting’ borough properties Talk about tyranny. Imagine if they were running the borough! And would someone, perhaps the economic expert, PLEASE give me some statistics as to how much revenue alcohol will bring to the borough? And do so with the inclusion of cost to the borough? Perhaps Kathy can answer, since she is on council. I have asked this and no one answers. Now, as far as coupling shopping and drinking, it’s doubtful. If the restaurant is as fine as you say it will be, well, most people who go out to eat at a high priced restaurant don’t bother shopping. Rather they are socializing, either as a single couple or with others. Therefore, you are putting the cart before the horse. Or just pulling the wool over eyes; or at least trying to. Why don’t you use all this wasted energy improving your business, as it is, so that it alone will attract more customers. I know lots of non-drinkers who enjoy a good meal. And why do you always talk about restaurants? How about clothing stores, shoe stores? Please don’t try to convince the public that people have to have a drink while shopping for these items. And let me ask Nina, why did you open your business in Bellevue anyway, aware of the fact that you couldn’t serve alcohol? Can’t you afford to open in Sewickley or Shadyside or Squirrel Hill? And why do you think that people who move to Bellevue aren’t actually doing so because they want to GET AWAY FROM CITY LIFE? Bellevue is a suburb, it’s as simple as that. To attempt to make it something else, for YOUR OWN INTEREST, is not only selfish, but extremely narrow minded. No offense.

  11. Am I banished from your site? I wrote a response and it was thrown off,AFTER it was posted.

  12. My sincere apologiy, it’s back.

  13. Hey Gayle,
    I’m just gonna speak very frankly with you, because it seems that you don’t respond well otherwise.
    If you’re ok with letting our town go in the direction of decline, then I can understand why you’d be so against prosperity. Seems like you’re AGAINST businesses making it. The reason that restaurants are brought up so often is because they’re usually the cornerstone of a great business district. Please name a business district that’s flourishing without a decent restaurant scene. The reason we opened our business in this town? Because we actually have faith that it can be turned around. That it can reach its full potential, and that we could play a part in running a respectful business in this awesome town. Maybe you’d like to see another dollar store go into my storefront? Would that better fit your agenda? Do you really think that the corporate businesses like the dollar stores, rent a center, corporate check cashing places, and discount cell phone stores really give a shit about Bellevue? I don’t see any of them at the council meetings, I don’t see any of them sweeping up their storefront sidewalk, I don’t see any of them keeping their windows clean, or trying to make sure that the town doesn’t end up like a ghetto. Let’s be honest here, the small business are the shining light in a town like Bellevue. The Bellevue council has had the same agenda for nearly 15-20 years. Take a look at what’s happened to our business district within that time frame. They’ve stumped nearly every creative idea or project that’s come along. They’ve squashed every idea to keep Bellevue moving forward. So tell me, is their agenda actually working to keep Bellevue as great as it can be? Or are you just complacent with the way that it’s going? Do you really think that little of your fellow human beings, that you don’t think that restaurants can handle their patrons? Do you really think that you know what’s best for everyone else? How about letting people take responsibility for themselves. There are already laws in place that state that it’s illegal to drive while drunk…and you’re statement that our roads aren’t wide enough to accommodate drunk drivers is about the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard. Are you kidding? And there’s already laws in place that state that it’s illegal to be drunk in public. There are already laws in place, why are you even bringing this up? Do you think that little of our police team, to think that they can’t do their job of upholding the laws? Says a lot about you if that’s the case. You actually needed to tie yourself into a pretzel to come up with a valid argument against any of us.

    Who benefits from a declining town? Maybe you enjoy it, but I sure as hell think Bellevue deserves much better than what it’s getting right now. The potential is there. Why stump it?

  14. As for your quick assumption that your comment was removed…
    Sometimes it take a few minutes for the system to process and post comments.
    Unlike other groups in Bellevue (i.e. the No Bars group circa 2011), we don’t ban users, block users, remove comments (unless they’re WILDLY inappropriate), make our page private, make certain post private, etc…
    Our goal is to engage with the public, even if we don’t agree. To encourage the public to get involved with what’s happening on council, and to question things. For far too long, the council has been dragging this town into a decline with little to no question about it from the public. That’s no OK.
    As much as you may not like us, we’re putting the information OUT THERE. Maybe you hate the fact that these people are finally being held accountable for what they say, do and vote for. It’s painful to be exposed, but it’s also part of being a public servant.
    You may not like the current information that’s out there, but we’re posting the issues that are happening within council at the current moment. Many people aren’t able to attend meetings, it’s probably safe to say that you’re actually getting your council meeting briefings from LiB because I don’t know how often you attend meetings. (as a matter of fact, I’ve known nearly every person by name that have been at the last several meetings, so unless you’re using a fake name, then I haven’t seen you there.). If I’m incorrect, please feel free to introduce yourself to me at a council meeting someday. It would be nice to be able to link a face to a name.

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