Attorney Asks for Second Chance for New Club

Doylestown attorney Bill Bolla wants borough council to reconsider its denial of a liquor license transfer for the Standard Club.

A Doylestown attorney has asked borough council to reconsider its recent denial of a new liquor license for a club to replace the Moose Lodge.

Bill Bolla has petitioned Doylestown Borough Council, asking it to reconsider a request to transfer a liquor license from Bristol Borough to Doylestown.

Matthew Bender applied for the license transfer. He planned to use it to open a bar and restaurant in the Moose Lodge building at 127 E. State St. Bender is the son in law of the building's owners, Bob and Mary Ellen Walton.

A hearing on Aug. 20 on the license transfer packed borough council chambers with people supporting Bender's application and neighbors of the Moose lodge opposed to it.

The bar and restaurant would not be open to the general public, Bender said during the hearing. Instead, it would serve a new private, nonprofit club called the Standard Club. The building's lease with the Moose lodge would be terminated, Bob Walton said that night.

After the hour and a half hearing, borough council members recessed briefly before voting unanimously to deny the license transfer.

Bolla said the Waltons are being treated unfairly.

"Council's recent unanimous denial of this request, after a five (5) minute deliberation, is, in my humble opinion, a travesty and injustice to Bob and Mary Ellen Walton and their family, who have done nothing but improve the building and property, as well as the situation in the neighborhood, since they acquired ownership of it two (2) years ago," Bolla said Friday in an email to Doylestown Patch. "In return, they have been treated with disdain and disrespect by Borough Officials."

Borough Council president Det Ansinn disputes that claim.

"They had a chance to present a coherent plan and details of that plan, and they did not accomplish that," Ansinn said. "They didn’t provide even basic details that this was even an established club, let alone a business plan or by-laws. I struggle to think of an applicant in recent memory who was as ill-prepared."

Bolla's petition argues that borough council's denial of the transfer was based on complaints from neighbors of the Moose Lodge about loud music and drunken behavior from people attending functions at the lodge building in the past. 

The petition acknowledges that the Moose had issues in the past but says they ended when the Waltons bought the building in 2009.

"Prior to acquisition of the property, the Moose Club had operated in an uncontrolled and offensive fashion. It had accomodated loud concerts catering to and targeting a teenage and young adult audience," the petition reads. "That activity ceased on the day that the facility was purchased" by 127 Investments, the Waltons' company.

Those "generalized fears of the impact of the liquor license on the community" are not grounds for a municipality to deny a license, the attorney argued.

But David Conn, the borough solicitor, said that wasn't why council members voted to deny the transfer. He is still drafting the "findings of fact" which outline the council's reasons for rejecting the transfer. They will be ready, and a final vote will be taken on the issue, at the council's Sept. 24 meeting, Conn said. 

"Bill made a bunch of assumptions about council’s motives that are not accurate," Conn said.

Ansinn said he voted against the transfer for several reasons.

"Everyone appreciates the history around the Moose," Ansinn said. "If something else is going to go there, they needed to provide us with clear details on what that would be and how it would operate. They failed to do that.

"Then there’s the idea that we’re adding yet another liquor license to town," Ansinn continued. "By any measure, we have plenty of liquor licenses in Doylestown Borough. And there was no detail on what the Moose would do with its current liquor license."

If a council member wants to request another hearing on they transfer, he or she could make a motion to do so at the Sept. 24 council meeting, Conn said.

But if no one makes that motion, it's the end of the issue, he said.

Before 2006, an applicant could appeal a denial to the Court of Common Pleas, Conn said. But in 2006, that legal standard and the right to appeal was removed from the law, he said.

"Now there is, explicitly, no right to appeal," Conn said. "Borough council has the final say."

The September 24 council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in council chambers at . The public is encouraged to attend.


Learn More:

To read the full petition for reconsideration, click on the pdf file attached to this story.

Tom Albert September 02, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Although Mr. Bender has not yet responded to a previous article's post (see below), I'm certain that if his intentions are admirable, he will respond to the following: In an earlier post, you said that the club is a non-profit--is that accurate? And do you have a website w/ more information regarding specifics as to the club's definition of "those in need in Bucks County?" As I am sure you would agree, the definition as stated is rather broad. Also, will you be hiring individuals with disabilities & would the club be able to donate the use of space for groups of individuals with cognitive & mental challenges for purposes of socialization. As you probably know from your experience as a businessman, there is a lot of work being done by mental health consumers & agencies for greater community integration. How exciting it would be for The Standard Club to take the lead in Doylestown to help with such an initiative! Given the glowing recommendation of your friend Jason above, it sounds like you have the knowledge and skills to run a non-profit that will really make a difference for those w/ cognitive & mental challenges by providing creative assistance & resources! (Jason intimated above that the town isn't giving you a chance to "make some money;" question--is heading a non-profit really something one does when one is attempting to personally "make money?"--because I know some directors of non-profits who would love to talk to you! lol)... Hope springs eternal!
Tom Albert September 02, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Mr. Bender's friend Josh (who also left a number of posts in the previous article) had written that the building would most likely be turned into low-income housing if the license was not granted; I think that even an outcome such as that would benefit the needy (given the dearth of safe and affordable housing in this otherwise terrific community)--how wonderful that Mr. Bender and Mr. Walton are looking for ways to truly assist those who need help. I am certain that they can understand the community's concern as it would be terribly unfortunate if the business/non-profit were not thoroughly vetted--especially if it is in the name of helping the sick, the elderly, the poor, those with mental health challenges, and others in need.
Bettina September 02, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Tom ... I APPLAUD you !
Tom Albert September 03, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Oops, I deleted my comment... Christa, If you know of any safe and affordable housing options for individuals under the age of 55 who are receiving disability, please post the information here. As I alluded to above, there are not many safe and affordable housing options for those with serious and persistent mental illness and with funding being reduced to section 8 and other housing programs, there are even less. With all the focus unfortunately on licenses and making money, it is wonderful that you are not losing sight of what is apparently Mr. Bender's goal--to help the needy of Bucks County! With the winning combination of empathy and creative ideas and support, Mr. Bender's chances of succeeding are increased--and with you and other like-minded stakeholders, people in need will be helped! Thank you!
Tom Albert September 03, 2012 at 02:45 AM
(The above was in response to someone who commented the following: "Retirement communities offer everything you are looking for!")
Wynne September 03, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Might we suggest that this family and its' followers and champions get some anger management? They didn't get their way, so they called their lawyer. Sounds like litigious paranoia! Maybe they'll take away their toys and play in someone else's yard. It was about a liquor license from another borough! Thanks for your well-put comments. Tom
Moderoy September 07, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Live from Doylestown Patch...it's The Tom Albert Show!
Tom Albert September 08, 2012 at 04:46 AM
Oh Moderoy, you are much too kind; but I would have to disagree--I think this is very much the Matthew Bender/ Bob Walton Show! I am just an enthusiastic audience member who is eagerly awaiting a response from our hosts during the Q & A segment of the show. All cleverness aside, I am excited regarding the potential for the Standard Club to support and assist the needy of Bucks County, particularly those with mental health challenges; and am looking forward to hearing more information regarding Mr. Bender's strategies for the Standard Club to meet this objective as a non-profit. I am also grateful to the Patch for providing up-to-the-minute coverage of the Standard Club's progress in achieving this goal.


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