A family-friendly, pop-up beer garden on a decrepit West Philly block?

March 22, 2017

Longtime West Philly resident Jeff Lutzner pitches “Pentridge Station,” a playground/park/beer garden proposed for a vacant lot on the 5100 block of Pentridge Street (Photo by West Philly Local).

A longtime West Philly resident is gambling that people will want to travel down a troubled street that is lined with abandoned cars, empty buildings and a quasi-legal automotive shop that sometimes hosts raucous outdoor parties during which shots have been fired to visit his kid-friendly, pop-up beer garden.

It sounds risky, but several people who attended last night’s Cedar Park Neighbors zoning committee meeting to discuss the proposed seasonal beer garden in an abandoned lot on the 5100 block of Pentridge Street said they will support it. Jeff Lutzner, a longtime resident and block captain on the 4900 block of Cedar Avenue, owns the lot and hopes that the beer garden/playground might bring some much-needed attention to the block.

“We really want it to be a place where families could convene,” Lutzner told the 30 or so people gathered at the meeting. 

“Pentridge Station” would run from June 23 to Sept. 16 on the fenced-in, 75-by-104-foot lot. According to renderings that Lutzner presented, the lot would include a cordoned-off area for beer (Dock Street would be a supplier, according to Lutzner). The rest of the lot includes lounging areas, a “painting wall” for kids and maybe even a sandbox or two, he said. Two porta potties would be onsite, and Lutzner said he is in negotiations with one or two food trucks to be onsite during open hours.

“It’s kind of a hybrid park and kids playground with a part that will serve beer,” Lutzner said.

According to the proposal, the beer garden would be open Thursday through Sunday, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. and might include occasional live music (acoustic only), karaoke and stand-up comedy. All of those would wrap up by 10 p.m. Nonetheless, noise was a concern for many nearby residents at the meeting, as was security.

Lutzner has a tentative agreement with a licensed security firm to provide one person to check IDs and maintain security at the beer garden.

The proposal raised questions about the possibility of the beer garden putting more “eyes on the block” and helping improve safety in the area during the summer, particularly on weekends. Others who live nearby were simply opposed to living near a beer garden.

“I bought my house where it is because it isn’t near bars or Baltimore Avenue,” said one neighbor. “I don’t want to live near a beer garden.”

The proposal does not require zoning approval – just a permit. The Cedar Park Neighbors zoning committee will draft a letter for or against the proposal based on last night’s public comments and send it to Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s office.

Those who were not able to attend the meeting can email their comments to:

Mike Lyons

30 Comments For This Post

  1. Y. Pantman Says:

    No beer garden please, i dont want this near my house.

    I couldnt attend the meeting but this is just not the spot for it. Please stop trying to gentrify west philly with ‘family friendly’ things that really just bring more white college students and white people with toddlers into our neighborhood and push housing prices even higher.

  2. Jason Says:

    I can’t imagine that you are going to get much sympathy with a racist argument like that. Things change unfortunately. Housing prices go up which bring jobs, opportunities, and higher costs. I moved away from a place where I could no longer afford to live. Yeah, it sucks.. Why bother complaining about white people though when your supposed problem is with rich people?

  3. Y. Pantman Says:

    gentrification is not racist to talk about but sorry if youre offended though. but its true and if you think a beer garden with expensive beers isnt gentrification for certain kinds of people you must be kidding.

  4. Jocelyn Says:

    If approved we hope to offer a price point for beers ranging from $3-$5. Similar to the one we have at Dahlak which allows us to have a very diverse group of patrons! Check out my follow up post on the Cedar Park Neighbors and West Willy’s Facebook groups, for a detailed breakdown of peoples concerns in last nights meeting. Y. Pantman, we really plan to be much more than a beer garden, look forward to your response after you have a bit more information.

  5. Bianca Says:

    Y. Pantman- I hear your concerns and was initially sceptical for those reasons. I went to the meeting and one of the reasons I was swayed is because this is being done by long time neighborhood residents (30 years) and two of which grew up in the neighborhood. one of which is a poc, since that seems to matter to you. I felt like they are just as aware and concerned about gentrification issues and for what it’s worth this did not seem like it would be the typical bougie beer garden at all. I see this being a space that’s by and for long time residents and people of all all races and backgrounds, much like Dahlak itself.

  6. 36er Says:

    I think Y Pantman is trying to stir things up here.

  7. Y. Pantman Says:

    I am not trying to stir things up unnecessarily. I live near the proposed spot and dont want it for a variety of reasons. Im tired of people making the statements that change is inevitable so on so on. I feel like newcomers to this area like to make that convenient argument that this will help make the place better when you are just blind that the area doesnt want or need your version of better we were here already and it works fine for us. just go ask the people who used to live in those trendy neighborhoods that have been already gentrified if they love the betterments you are offer. I have old friends moving away because the rent is now centered on the student and certain demographics who can afford it and Ive been here longer than this ‘block captain’ so thats it. Keep your beer party at dock street already enough is enough!

  8. CP Says:

    Residents in the immediate area who support the beer garden expressed they found the garage across the street from the property to be a nuisance and believe that bringing in an outdoor bar/kid’s playground will influence the owners of the garage to “change their behavior”, or at least attract the attention of police and the city in hopes they will have an influence.

    The issues residents listed were:
    Loud music at night on the weekends
    Loud annoying karaoke at night on the weekends
    “All problems in the area stem from the garage” (a claim made by a police officer after someone was shot in November)
    Cooking and selling food without a license

    The proposal for the beer garden includes:
    Acoustic band performances
    Stand-up comedy
    Selling alcohol and food (with a license)

    Additionally, a house next to the proposed beer garden, also owned by Lutzner, throws shows with bands performing in the house – a point brought up by a resident, that received no response from Lutzner. No one mentioned having a problem with that house creating a lot of noise on the weekends.

    It appears residents will support Lutzner’s beer garden with Karaoke and live music, and will not protest live bands performing in the neighboring house, but do not support their neighbors across the street who also sing karaoke and listen to music.

    Lutzner prefaced his proposal with the story of how he came up with the idea – the city of Philadelphia finally started fining him for not keeping his property secured and clean, so he had to put in the effort and money to clean it up. Now that the work has been put in, and there are more residents with more money to spend in the neighborhood, he wants to turn it into a business.

    Think about this – are you really willing to go sit on a manicured patch of grass on a block of crumbling houses and no sidewalk, to drink beer that is available around the corner at Dock Street because you think the the neighbors need to “learn manners” and live how you live?

  9. 36er Says:

    Y Pantman, sorry I think I misunderstood you earlier. I would be more pissed about the noise than whether the beer garden will jack up the rents in the neighborhood:. Has the Dock Street helped fuel the rent increases around there? I’m not sure about that.

  10. BlackNoire Says:

    @Y.Pantnam I need to find you because we need to talk. Thank you for your insight. Soul Sistah Black Noire

  11. Joe Hamm Says:

    Y Pantman, I’m sure you didn’t mean for your comment to be so racist or offensive. I’m also concerned about rising prices. However, is it fair to place the blame on white people? How would you feel if someone made a negative comment about a business bringing more black college students and black people with toddlers into a neighborhood? Obviously that would not be acceptable either. Everyone wants to be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

  12. BlackNoire Says:

    @Y.Pantnam We are having the same problem over here in South West Philadelphia (Woodland Ave).

  13. BlackNoire Says:

    @Y.Pantnam Also, be aware when they don’t agree with your comments on Westpillylocal, particularly when it’s about the subject of Gentrification / Revitalization in neighborhoods and residents that are truly being effected by this monster; they block you from responding to a subject that you are quite aware of if you are a long time resident (40 plus years) and have been fighting the fight in City Hall and across Philadelphia.

  14. WPL Says:

    Not true. We block trolls.

  15. Stewie Says:

    I walk past those guys in the garage at night sometimes. Although they look seedy, they mind their business and seem to be enjoying a social moment from the grind of daily life. Which is the point of the beer garden no?

    So if we’re trying to create a venue for such opportunity, why not be honest and say “sure but exclusive of…” in lieu of the euphemism “family friendly”…

    If you make time to stop and talk to these guys, you’ll realize they’re no different than the people that want a “family friendly” beer garden…honestly.

    Get to know your neighbors…

  16. Rk Says:

    I’m going to say as a white person, I completely understand Y. pantman’s Point of view, and agree with it. If you are interested in fostering community, foster creativity and artistic expression, something that could benefit the growth of others instead of profit off of alcohol. I’ve worked in a few of the pop up gardens around philly and that is not the type of “growth” needed or wanted here.

  17. Commonsense Says:

    @blacknoir what’s the problem on Woodland Ave I’m confused would you rather the stores stay ran down selling sub par food and blunt wraps late until the night or new business that could possibly increase your property value

  18. MA Says:

    While I too am worried about gentrification in the area – these high priced new buildings going up, especially that eyesore a block up on Pentridge – I’m having a tough time thinking of this project as such. This is an idea proposed by locals, one who happens to be a POC with experience running one of the most diverse bars/restaurants in the area. If you’ve been out back at Dahlak then you know this.

    Another worry seems to be that the neighborhood could benefit from other projects. Of course it could, but this isn’t a mutually exclusive proposal here folks. Again, these are local restauranteurs doing what they do. This still leaves room for tons of other ideas for how to improve the neighborhood. If you need a list of places to get involved I can post one.

    With that being said, as someone who has a small child who lives extremely close to this area, my biggest concern is the noise. We’ve had, albeit minor, issues with the punks and the auto body garage. The dancehall parties, while fun, go on a bit late and the punks, while good about shutting down at a good time, some of them have thrown empty beer bottles into our backyard. The one thing they did share tho was that both of their patrons have been drunk and arguing right outside of our kid’s window. Of course, we don’t blame the entire group. We’ve talked to both and found each to be highly receptive. In fact, the guy we spoke to at the auto garage seemed excited about the park/beer garden. Perhaps Ephraim, as I know he was planning, could talk to them about clearing out their side of street?

    This is a complex issue, but from the perspective of someone who wil be affected no matter what by this beer garden from Thursday to Sunday, my hope is that it alleviates some of the blight and violence in the neighborhood, rather than adding to it. Perhaps the parklet can mitigate some of that. One thing I do know, is that this stretch of Pentridge could use something to clean up the atmosphere, and not just surface repairs. Could this be thing? Hard to tell at this point.

  19. Y. Pantman Says:

    glad to see at least some people joining in and agreeing that we dont need an outdoor bar to ‘solve’ pentridge ave.

    As has been said by me and others, there is dock street and many other places over on Baltimore ave for you all to be drinking and having your get togethers. I didnt protest those changes (even when third world lounge oh wait ‘the barn’ added outdoor seating for the college kids who now drink there) but enough is enough as I said before.

    Keep it on the main streets and off the residential blocks where some of us value our traditional neighborhood and neighbors and dont want to see our neighborhood become the next trendy spot and push us out.

  20. LW Says:

    I don’t know that kiddie park and beer garden go together unless there’s lots of space. Beer garden/playground sounds like an oxymoron. Apart from that since I’m not a near neighbor I wouldn’t propose or oppose it. If it was on my block I don’t think I’d be thrilled so I understand the concern of near neighbors. As for the gentrification – mostly a good thing except for renters. That block could use some. I drive by there with people hanging out and the streets filthy with litter. It’s not abut race. It’s about culture. In this case one that would benefit from change. Keep the streets clean. Paint the houses. Stop blaring music that others don’t want to hear. A little respect for self and others goes a long way.

  21. LW Says:

    @Y.Pantman Is anyone really sorry to see the Third World Lounge disappear? It was a dive that would truly be at home in many Third World places. I regret that even the Bar(n) hasn’t done enough to improve the corner. It looks like an updated dive bar from the outside even with the I guess you meant white college kids (although I have seen some Asians but don’t know if they count). It might be nice inside. No interest in going there yet from the way it looks outside.

  22. Y. Pantman Says:

    thats exactly the kind of gentrifying thought process I am talking about. You dont like the third wordl lounge because it wasnt the bar you would drink at. my friends and i went there all the time and now its completely different. you are not even understanding. you want the barn to make the bar corner all nice in a way it doesnt need. this is the blindness gentrifying people suffer from. you think your idea of nice is everyones desire.

    same thing with pentridge ave. west philly had a culture before you were here to say This needs to be nicer so I feel safe. which translates to ‘I want my own culture to dominate the auto shop and the people who live nearby’. Pentridge is fine as it is, and this is just sad to see people want to change yet another section of west phil.

  23. goldenmonkey Says:

    There you have it folks. It’s about “culture”.


  24. Timothy Reimer Says:

    I don’t see any discussion of the fact the Fatty Tuna LLC, the owner of the lots the proposed beer garden would operate on, have been operating illegal house and apartment rentals in the neighborhood. None of the five rental properties they own have a rental license. Fatty Tuna LLC doesn’t have a Commercial Activity License, a pre-requisite for any business operating in Philadelphia. The properties the beer garden would operate on have just under $2300 in unpaid water bills. Despite owning some of the lots, and adjacent decrepit shell, for four calendar years they have never even applied for a vacant property/lot license. All in Fatty Tuna has skipped out in paying almost $5000 in utility bills and license fees over the years. If a company wants the support of the community in operating a lucrative concession they should pay their fair share of taxes/licenses/bills/fees BEFORE they ask.

  25. Scrapplepants Says:

    Also who’s liquor license is running this? Dock Streets? You have to have a valid PLCB liquor liscense in order to get the necessary permits to sell alcohol.

  26. goldenmonkey Says:

    Although $5k is small potatoes compared to many, if that’s true, it should end all discussion of the beer garden until the issue is rectified.

    Mr. Reimer, did you happen to attend the community meeting and raise this point?

  27. LW Says:

    @goldenmonkey I agree. If what Timothy claims is true the guy should pay his back taxes, get licenses, etc. before any consideration for beer garden.

  28. Timothy Reimer Says:

    GoldenMonkey and LW: I did attend the community meeting regarding the beer garden but I did not have the chance to bring up this specific issue. It was very crowded and having already spoken about another concern I wanted to give others the chance to speak. I did share my concerns directly with Cedar Park Neighbors Zoning committee along with some members of the community after the meeting. To be specific I am not alleging that Fatty Tuna LLC CURRENTLY owes any back taxes although the city did sue them in Municipal Court in 2010 and 2011 ( and ) over unpaid wage taxes and then twice again in 2015 ( see CaseID’s 1505R14050819 and 1512R10660563 or search for ‘Fatty Tuna LLC’) over unpaid property taxes. They DO have a delinquent water bills for 5010-20 Pentridge Street totaling $2297.34. Fatty Tuna LLC also lacks a Commercial Activity License, Rental Licenses for their five rental Properties (4 houses and 1 apartment) and Vacant Property/Lot Licenses for their six vacant properties (5 lots and 1 building).

  29. goldenmonkey Says:

    Thank you for your response.

  30. LP Says:

    I’ve visited pop-ups in Center City and they remind me why I enjoy living in West Philly where they rarely happen. It’s disrespectful to the neighbors on this block to do this.

    That lot should be a park, plain and simple. It’s a residential area. No alcohol, no music, comedy, karaoke or noise-fueled chaos. You want beer? Go around the corner to Dock Street where you don’t have to stand in line to use a port-a-potty that will no doubt be ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING in the summer. You want music? Go to Dahlak.

    I could visualize a pop-up happening in the lot next to Vientiane where there’s already lots of foot traffic on Baltimore ave. Too bad this Lutzner fella doesn’t own that.

    I understand the upset in some of the comments here and recognize the truths in them.

    To LW: I believe Bar(n) didn’t change many things because they wanted to preserve as much as they could of what it used to be. They wanted it to still feel welcoming to people who frequented Third World Lounge. Outside of Dahlak, it’s the only other bar I’ve visited in West Philly with any diversity.

    Everybody has somewhere that they like. Everybody has somewhere they won’t go to. I, for one, would never go to this pop-up.

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