There are plans for a new entertainment venue/restaurant at the Old St. John’s Church located at 1028 N. Third Street. Bart Blatstein’s Tower Investments, who has owned the building for quite some time now, is looking to turn the space into a 350-seat concert/show venue that will serve food and will also be equipped with a liquor license (they hope). At a Northern Liberties Neighbors Association (NLNA) meeting on February 28th, Ron Patterson and Tina Roberts represented Tower Investments and presented its plans for the new locale. Approximately 30 NoLibs residents (many of whom live within 10-feet of the property) showed up to the meeting and it seems as though they were less than pleased with the answers (or lack thereof) that they received.
The 8,000-square-foot space also has plans to house a “restaurant” (still at 350 seats) with 10 four-top tables for outdoor seating. This very tentative plan does rely on Tower Investments being granted the liquor license, but because of a 2001 zoning ruling on the church, Tower can pretty much do whatever they please with the space. This means that without the liquor license, Tower can still turn the location into a BYOB. Patterson and Roberts also said at the meeting that there is a possibility for having special events at the venue as well (i.e. wedding receptions, parties, etc.). The neighbors of the church have the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board rules on their side (there is a school within 500 feet of the establishment) and they have collected over 65 petitions to intervene. (Blatstein also just signed a 10-year lease with the PLCB for a State Store in the new Pathmark site.)
Tower Investments has a mixed track record with locals in regards to holding true to their word, so skepticism is running rampant when it comes to the plans for this project. Main concerns include noise (there are residential homes very close to this building), parking, trash, as well as the allowance of the liquor license. A handful of angry NoLibs residents have made it clear that they are absolutely prepared to hire a lawyer and attend the LCB meetings to make sure that it doesn’t happen.
While we are definitely in favor of a new venue/restaurant being built in Philly, the concern shown by NoLibs residents is understandable as there are a lot of unanswered questions at this point. We will be anxiously awaiting the revelation of what will really become of the old church.