The owner of a popular waterfront tavern in East Torresdale wants to expand his business, but neighbors want him to scale it back.
The outcome of their yearslong difference of opinion remained undecided last week after two face-to-face meetings between the sides.
On July 5, Kevin Goodchild, owner of Maggie’s Waterfront Café, at 9238 N. Delaware Ave., told neighbors during the monthly East Torresdale Civic Association meeting that he planned to move forward with a series of new zoning variance applications, despite the local opposition.
But during a special hearing in Center City the following afternoon, Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment postponed rulings on Goodchild’s applications so both sides could have time to work on a compromise.
The business owner and neighbors agreed to meet with one another in the coming weeks to attempt to resolve their differences before returning to the ZBA. The next hearing is expected to occur in mid-August.
“In forty-five days, I’d like to see what the agreement is or is not,” ZBA chairwoman Lynette M. Brown-Sow told the sides. “You should have as many meetings as you need to have [before then].”
Neighbors have long accused Maggie’s of generating loud music, rowdiness, illegal parking and other quality-of-life problems for them. The bar/restaurant opened for business about three years ago on a residentially zoned site previously occupied by other alcohol-serving establishments, including Mimi’s on the Delaware and Whiskey’s.
Goodchild acknowledges that he has been cited by the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections for allowing his patrons to park on an empty residential lot that he owns next to his business. Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, meanwhile, has cited the business for noise violations.
While still in the process of resolving the liquor license violation, Goodchild is seeking zoning approval from the city to consolidate the Maggie’s property with two adjacent lots that he owns, including the makeshift parking area. He also wants to build a roof over an existing patio on the property, a rooftop deck over the bar/restaurant, new exterior stairs leading to the deck and a new walk-in cooler behind the business. Further, he wants to legalize parking on the empty residential lot.
During last week’s zoning hearing, about six neighbors identified themselves as supporters of Goodchild’s plans, while about 10 registered their formal opposition.
One opponent, Delaware Avenue resident Joe Carson, submitted pictures to the ZBA purportedly depicting Maggie’s patrons drinking and urinating in public within view of nearby houses.
“Urination, drinking in the street, squatting in the street,” Brown-Sow said as she paged through the photocopied images.
Goodchild’s attorney, Shawn Ward, argued during cross-examination of Carson that the photos contained no proof that the people in them were Maggie’s patrons.
Lew Halas, president of the ETCA, testified that his organization had no problem with Maggie’s when Goodchild initially proposed the business. At the time, however, neighbors were unaware that Goodchild would expand activity outdoors, including food service, drinking and music.
“Kevin came to us and asked to open a family bar/restaurant in the building. So we were in non-opposition,” Halas said. “Since then, it’s been a nightmare. … It keeps snowballing.”
Another neighbor and ETCA member, Alan Babnew, claimed that he saw a Maggie’s patron urinating on a fence separating his yard from the business, but Goodchild’s employees denied that the individual had been in the bar. Babnew further complained about noise and loud music at the bar on weeknights and weekends as late as 2 a.m.
At Goodchild’s request, ETCA members agreed in June to engage in negotiations mediated by the city’s Human Relations Commission. The civic group formed a committee, chaired by Carson, on June 27 and notified the business owner on June 30, but no actual negotiating sessions were held in advance of last week’s zoning hearing.
The next public East Torresdale Civic Association meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 8, at 7 p.m., at Liberty Evangelical Free Church. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org