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: firstname.lastname@example.org
– Mike Lyons