Last week we introduced the concept of “Conditional Licensing Agreements.” CLAs give local community members, residents, business owners, concerned citizens, etc full authority to negotiate conditions with which any applicant for a liquor license must adhere in order to obtain their license. The local wrist slapping comunity nanny group known as No Bars in Bellevue responded to our article by effectively saying, “See! No matter how small, there’s still a chance dive bars could saturate Lincoln Avenue if the referendum passes. The only way to absolutely guarantee there will never be a bar in Bellevue is to vote no on May 19.”
And, we need to make something perfectly clear, they’re right. The only way to absolutely guarantee that someone will not show up in Bellevue, invest about $250,000 to open a nuisance bar which would likely get immediately shut down within months (much like Bloomfield and Lawrenceville have been effective in shutting down more than 21 nuisance bars in their region) is to vote no on May 19th.
However, here’s the other side of that same coin: while it might be guaranteed that no one will have the freedom to chuck a quarter million dollars into a failure of a business if the referendum fails on May 19th, there would also be absolutely no reason to expect any substantial deviation from Bellevue’s road of stagnation and economic decline. As Einstein famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Bellevue has some great businesses. A few new ones have even popped up in recent months. But, if we want to fully capitalize on the entrepreneurial spirit which has reached near cruising altitude in countless communities around Pittsburgh, our community needs a spark. For Bellevue to follow in the footsteps of communities like Aspinwall, Dormont, Carnegie, Braddock, Regent Square, Zelienople, etc and become the new buzzworthy, destination community it needs a bold new vision and bold new opportunity for growth.
Those of us who have spent our time, resources, and energy investing in this town have learned in no uncertain terms we will not see our residential areas improve without a dramatically improved business district. According to every single economic development expert, we will not see improvements in our business district without new, destination restaurants and entertainment venues. We will not see new destination restaurants and entertainment venues without giving investors the freedom to apply for a liquor license.
Is there a calculated risk? Sure. But, every time you climb into a moving vehicle you take a calculated risk of being hurt, even killed, in a terrible accident. Yet, last we checked, just about every one of us either drives or rides in a motor vehicle on a daily basis.
Just as motor vehicles have made dramatic safety improvements over the years, the PA Liquor Control Board has learned from past mistakes and made dramatic safety/community control improvements in recent years. The Conditional Licensing Agreements are those dramatic improvements. As a member of the Bellevue community, thanks to CLAs, you are now empowered to be a proactive member of your own community. You have the power to keep undesirable institutions from acquiring a liquor license. Additionally, if an established business with a current license takes an undesirable turn, you are empowered by the PLCB to protest the renewal of its license (which occurs every two years).
Again, it takes work to make a community thrive. We all want a better Bellevue. But we will never see an improved community if we do not open it up to the kind of investment so many other communities around us are seeing every single day. There is risk involved, but nothing worth doing comes without it.
Before wrapping up this post, we feel it essential to point out something you may not know. Four years ago, the group which championed the referendum was opposed by a formidable opposition in an organization known as “No Bars in Bellevue.” This year, though that organization’s signs are being recycled we found it strange that there wasn’t any new material coming from them on their website or Facebook page. After some significant research we believe we’ve figured out why that is. Without naming names, many of the individuals who originally led “No Bars” behind the scenes no longer live in Bellevue. Many of them have moved to areas with better economies, more attractive business districts, higher property values, lower property taxes, better schools, and the freedom to sell alcohol in their restaurants.
So, while our opposition has declined to little more than someone who knows how to block dissenting voices from a Facebook page, those of us championing the amazing benefits of finally passing the referendum have grown and dug even deeper roots into our community. Some of us have further invested in new property. Some of us have launched businesses here. Some of us have run for office and are actively serving our neighbors. And ALL OF US have poured our time, resources, and energy into acquiring and distributing the facts on this very important issue in our community.