Somerton approves hotel expansion

A Somerton public house and hotel dating to the American revolutionary era is in store for some major changes.

Now known as Bull Shooters Saloon, the nightclub portion of the business will shrink by about 3,000 square feet, but the hotel will gain 11 new guest rooms.

Members of the Somerton Civic Association approved the proposed renovations by a 17–7 vote on Jan. 14 during the group’s monthly meeting. The site is at 14000 Bustleton Ave. at the intersection of Philmont Avenue. The hotel will offer 41 guest rooms once the project is complete.

“I have a waiting list all the time,” said property owner John Catagnus, referring to the customer demand for rooms.

Catagnus said he bought the site about 35 years ago. Nowadays, the hotel serves mostly overnight and weekly guests, many of whom are construction contractors who work in the area temporarily, but live too far away to commute from their homes, according to the owner.

City property records show that the three-story masonry building has 18,524 square feet of floor space. It sits on an irregularly shaped one-acre parcel of land that is surrounded on three sides by public streets and one side by the Calvary Christian Academy athletic fields.

Zoning attorney Shawn Ward, who represents the owner, said that most rooms are single-occupancy and do not have efficiencies or private bathrooms. The hotel complies with a city ordinance requiring it to have at least one bathroom available for every six rooms. The renovations will also add a new laundry room, Ward said.

Meanwhile, the first-floor nightclub will be reduced by 3,032 square feet. It will continue to offer patrons live music and billiards, Ward said.

The property had parking for about 40 vehicles in the front and about 40 more in the rear, according to Google Maps images. Hotel guests generally park in the rear and nightclub patrons in the front, Ward said.

Seth Kaplan, vice president of the civic association, reported that immediate neighbors and area businesses had been informed of the proposal and did not offer negative feedback. Dan Lodise, chief of staff to state Rep. Brendan Boyle, said that the lawmaker was unopposed to the renovations.

The original hotel has been a neighborhood fixture since revolutionary times. A war skirmish reportedly occurred nearby.

In the 20th century, the nightclub operated under many names and multiple formats. In the late 1970s, the entertainment included topless women dancers. The place eventually became known as Visions. In the mid-’90s, the Calvary Chapel moved in next door and helped the Somerton Civic Association successfully fight to have strippers banned from the club.

More recently, the nightclub has also been known as John’s Boardwalk and Whiskey Tango. The current name is a reference to the club’s Western theme. The logo features a star and a longhorn steer.

Also during last week’s civic meeting, Somerton residents heard a presentation by two officials from Catholic Community Services, a nonprofit social services agency that partners with the city’s Department of Human Services.

DHS recently selected CCS to service as the Community Umbrella Agency for most of Northeast Philadelphia. CCS will provide services and referrals to at-risk families in the 2nd, 7th and 8th police districts. Services will include adoption, case management, community outreach, foster care, mental health referrals, parent cafes, transportation and parent/child visitation.

The agency is now working with about 250 families in the Northeast. In most cases, the children have been separated from their parents or guardians for various reasons. Some youths have been adjudicated delinquent, others placed in DHS custody because of parental problems.

As a selected service provider, CCS seeks to partner with local organizations and businesses to help protect the safety of distressed children and to strengthen their families and their ties to the community. CCS has two Northeast offices at 2990 Holme Ave. and 10125 Verree Road. Call Mary Bell at 215–992–7058 for information. ••