While his pop fights a townhouse project on Jersey Street, Charles Goldman is taking some heat over a proposal for a brewery in Allentown. Charles Goldman is seeking approval to lease 249 Allen Street to Steel Leaf Brewing Company. Business owner Jeff Pitts wants to brew and serve beer in the 3,100 sq.ft. building between 9 am and 11:30 pm. The Planning Board and City Council need to sign-off on the plan. Allentown residents aren’t too pleased.
A meeting regarding the proposal was held on Monday. A recap from a resident/attendee:
Approximately 40 residents attended and most spoke. All but one person in attendance spoke against the addition of another business on Allen Street that serves alcohol.
A common theme in comments was the lack of current parking and how this business with a 100-person “event space” will make a bad situation worse. The owner of the proposed business was not able to give any direct answer to parking or capacity or other concerns raised in questions from residents.
He stated that he is looking at leasing two parking lots but when asked to specify the location, he would not do so (because no such available lots exist). He was also ill-informed and very patronizing to residents on other topics. He arrogantly stated that Allentown is in decline and needs to be “turned around” and that his brewery will be the catalyst to make the neighborhood better. He lied about the how long the building has been empty, then made a lame excuse when the audience called him out.
He also said that no retail could possibly survive on Allen and used as an example the “failure” of Rust Belt Books, then had no response when told that Rust Belt was thriving but had their lease terminated by the building owner because a bar paid higher rent. He also stated that he would work with the Allentown Association to end the problem of unruly crowds on Allen by asking for police patrols. He was unaware that there is already a large weekend police detail on Allen.
Across the board he demonstrated ignorance of the neighborhood but claimed that his business will be a “change agent”, disregarding that the desired change wanted by residents is fewer bars, not more.
On a side note, the proposed owner stated multiple times that he plans to remove the existing brick façade and replace it with two large garage doors that would be opened when whether permits to create an open air drinking space. He indicated that one of the doors would also be necessary to allow trucks to enter the building to deliver brewing supplies as well as to load delivery vehicles to deliver some of the beer brewed on site. No one challenged this last night, but it is doubtful that the Preservation Board would approve such a dramatic and inappropriate change to the façade.
Councilmember Franczyk attended and listened to the comments and questions. Despite the overwhelming opposition voiced by members at the meeting, the Allentown Association will not take a position but has stated that the Association will remain “neutral” and make no recommendation to the Council either for or against. This is the prerogative of the Association Board and they are acting as they see fit in an effort to not appear to be anti-business.
The Planning Board will review the application on Monday.