Old Canal Inn’s music request falls on deaf ears

Hollidaysburg council refuses to allow concerts outside of bar

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Hollidaysburg Borough Council members refused to act last week on a request to allow amplified music to be played outside of a Blair Street bar.

The inaction was clearly disappointing to Old Canal Inn owner Lance Laratonda, who has been seeking outdoor concerts at his business for more than a year.

“This is just silly,” Laratonda said Thursday night.

In June 2016, Laratonda and manager Candace McQuillen petitioned the board to take steps to allow outdoor music at the bar along Route 22.

Shortly before that meeting, the Old Canal Inn property was expanded by about half an acre through a lot consolidation, and its owner asked to use the expanded area to host concerts.

After a number of appearances before council last year, an Old Canal Inn official could not sway borough leaders to take action. The same was true Thursday, when their requests were renewed.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board polices businesses that sell alcohol and prohibits amplified music loud enough to be heard from adjacent properties.

To allow the Old Canal Inn — a restaurant and lounge — to hold concerts, PLCB regulations would have to be waived, shifting enforcement responsibilities to borough police.

That shift of enforcement would come at a cost to the borough, as its officers would have to respond to complaints at the Old Canal Inn.

“Why do we want to take that over?” Borough Manager James Gehret asked, rhetorically.

Borough police Sgt. Rodney Estep said a noise violation was reported at the Old Canal Inn in June, stemming from music being played inside of the business.

“You cannot have amplified sound being heard off the premises, period,” Estep said.

McQuillen said the violation was minor, a warning was issued by the Liquor Control Enforcement Bureau and problems were addressed.

Still, Council President Joseph Pompa questioned if outside music would create additional violations and complaints.

“Do we want to take the enforcement on ourselves, which is going to cost the police department time and money?” he said.

Laratonda argued that there “won’t be any problems.”

“We have supervision there,” he said, explaining council members could prohibit the concerts if they become problematic.

Borough solicitor Nathan Karn explained a waiver could be made to apply to a single business, such as the Old Canal Inn, but changes to an existing noise ordinance may need to be made before taking steps to secure a waiver, officials said.

The Old Canal Inn, sitting along railroad tracks and a major roadway, is not near many homes, and Laratonda argued that makes it a good location for outdoor music.

But Councilwoman Stephanie Wertz worried granting a waiver could lead to requests in other areas, including near residential neighborhoods.

“I know everybody is saying we are not going to have to do this with other businesses, but I can’t help it. Every time I think that is true, it blows up,” Wertz said. “They are going to see (The Old Canal Inn) getting all this business and say ‘Why can’t I do it, too?'”

Old Canal Inn supporters argued that amplified music near homes already exists in Hollidaysburg, including through borough-hosted concerts at the intersection of Allegheny and Montgomery streets.

That claim did little to change opinions among council members, who took no action on the requested waiver.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.