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Monessen may cap bottle clubs

| Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 12:06 a.m.

Monessen residents may be asked to decide whether to prohibit bottle clubs in the city.

Council is expected to vote Wednesday to place the question on a ballot referendum for the 2014 primary election.

During council's work session Monday, Mayor Mary Jo Smith said police Chief John Manderino requested council consider approving the referendum. Smith said the city currently has no bottle clubs and the chief is being proactive.

City Solicitor Mark Shire said bottle clubs are not prohibited in Pennsylvania, but municipalities can ask voters to approve referendums to do so in their respective communities.

“Council can't legislate bottle clubs,” Shire said. “It has to be done on the ballot.”

A bottle club is a place where patrons — often members — are served drinks from their own bottles without regard to liquor control laws.

Bottle clubs are not regulated by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, creating issues involving underage drinking and serving of liquor to intoxicated people, Shire said. He said prosecuting bottle clubs is “problematic” because enforcement relies on local police getting patrons to testify.

Shire said there is a potential for violence involving intoxicated patrons spilling out into the streets.

While the state LCB controls the number of liquor licenses it awards, bottle clubs are outside of that jurisdiction, Shire said.

“One way to regulate them is through zoning, but that still puts the burden on the local community to regulate them,” Shire said.

While voters may get to decide that issue, the City of Monessen is out of the running even before a reality show got off the ground.

Monessen was the top choice among producers for a new show called “Town 180,” Smith said.

Under the premise of the weekly show, two teams within the town will “put into action” a plan to turn that community around 180 degrees, creating jobs and creating a whole new economy, Smith explained.

The grand prize would be $100,000 and six months of professional development counseling.

The show will be spread out over 10 episodes that cover six to eight months.

“Town 180” was developed by George Christo and attorney R. Randy Lee, who developed the plan to convert blighted properties in the city into an art community, popularly known as “Monessen Rising.”

Smith said producers told her Monessen was the “number one contender” for the show, but she informed them she was defeated for the Democratic nomination for mayor in the spring. Lou Mavrakis, who won the Democratic nod, and Robert Zynosky Jr., who was unopposed for the Republican nomination, both have publicly stated they do not support Monessen Rising.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or