The Zoning Board of Adjustment voted 3-2 on Wednesday to sustain an appeal of a Licences & Inspections violation handed to the operators of a shuttered go-go bar and steakhouse at 6130 W. Passyunk Ave. earlier this summer that would have prevented the club from reopening.
The board’s decision allows the owners to reopen the club under new management. It will be called Vanity Grand Cabaret, according to attorney Dawn Tancredi, who represented the new tenant at yesterday’s board hearing. The previous tenant, Christine’s, closed shortly after the manager died in early 2012.
Wednesday’s case was argued by Tancredi and city solicitor Andrew Ross, representing L&I. The argument hung on whether the club had “ceased operations” for more than 90 days. Tancredi quoted case law which said that in order for a nonconforming use to be considered abandoned, the city would have to show that the owners had an “intent” to discontinue the use. She said that during the period since Christine’s closed, the owner paid taxes and utilities, kept up the website, and marketed the property to new tenants.
Andrew Ross said that the cabaret was not a nonconforming use but a regulated use, and that the zoning code says that any regulated use which ceases operations for 90 days must comply with all current zoning regulations, which would require the owner to apply for a new zoning permit.
Julia Chapman, chairwoman of the zoning board, sided with Ross. She said the zoning code section on discontinuance of regulated uses governs, and voted to deny the appeal. So did board member Samuel Staten, Jr. But the three other members, Greg Pastore, Carol Tinari, and Martin Bednarek, voted to sustain the appeal.
L&I has thirty days to appeal the zoning board’s decision. Andy Ross said he wasn’t sure whether they would choose to appeal or not.
“We thought the evidence was overwhelming in our favor,” said Dawn Tancredi. “You never can predict how a zoning board or a judge is going to rule.”
Julia Chapman said she would not comment on the case until the appeal period has passed.
Jared Brey is a freelance reporter based in Philadelphia. His work has been featured in Philadelphia magazine, Hidden City, The Philadelphia Inquirer, City & State, and other publications. He covered development, zoning policy, historic preservation, and city government for PlanPhilly from 2011-2016.