The Greater Bustleton Civic League wants to know why a local veterans organization seems to be operating a de facto nightclub that hosts parties for hundreds of walk-in patrons several nights and early mornings each week.
During the community group’s monthly meeting on Feb. 24, residents queried two in-house promoters for the GoodLife Lounge about a recent disturbance and possible shooting outside the club, as well as repeated noise complaints and the promoters’ connection to a Catholic War Veterans post that owns the liquor license there.
A senior official from the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspection, two state representatives and a Philadelphia police captain joined the dialogue as GBCL President Jack O’Hara and other civic group members sought assurances that changes are in store for CWV Post 162, at 9855/59 Bustleton Ave.
“As a civic league, we step forward when something’s not working right,” said O’Hara. “If these things are left to fester, they get worse. … The unruly crowd is just unacceptable. And when they’re unsupervised, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
A Jan. 31 incident outside the club sparked heightened public scrutiny. Shortly before 3 a.m., a fight occurred in the parking lot involving dozens of patrons, police said. The venue’s own employees called 911 and said they heard gunshots. When police arrived and intervened, three cops allegedly were assaulted. Police arrested three people and later found about 11 spent shells in the lot, although police hadn’t seen anyone with a gun. No serious injuries were reported.
“It’s disturbing. Bad things happen when someone goes after a police officer,” said police Capt. Mike Gormley, commander of the 7th district. “Bad things happen when a gun is involved. Bad things happen late at night. … We’re going to keep our eyes on it.”
L&I Chief of Staff Beth Grossman, along with state Reps. Kevin Boyle and Martina White, joined Gormley in responding to residents’ questions about the Jan. 31 incident, quality-of-life problems and enforcement protocols. In the midst of the discussion, two party promoters stepped forward to answer questions directly. They identified themselves as Mark and Royce, but declined to state their last names. They said they represented Post 162’s commander, Gino Tripodi.
“The incident was unfortunate. We didn’t see it coming,” Mark said of the Jan. 31 episode.
He said that he and his partner began promoting parties at the veterans club last October and weren’t told about a need for outside security. The promoters run a for-profit business and pay fees to use the hall. They advertise their parties on social media and collect cash at the door. Technically, they are independent from the Catholic War Veterans, who hold a catering club license, allowing them to host the parties and sell alcohol until 3 a.m. Most bars must stop serving at 2 a.m.
Armed with new security and marketing plans, the promoters expect to avoid future trouble, Mark continued. Moving forward, they will book performers that tend to attract older audiences, figuring that patrons in their 30s and beyond are less rowdy than younger ones, he added. The club holds up to 350 people.
O’Hara said he wants to know what else Post 162 does besides renting a hall and selling liquor for late-night parties.
“The state license they have is dependent on them being who they say they are, the Catholic War Veterans Post 162, and that’s being looked at,” O’Hara said, adding that a state CWV commander told him that he was unaware of any prior complaints about Post 162.
The license requires Post 162 to have bylaws, conduct regular membership meetings and keep detailed financial records, including costs and income for individual parties. Further, alcohol sales must be secondary to the organization’s other documented activities.
Boyle — whose legislative district doesn’t include the property but who said he lives four blocks from the site and represents many affected neighbors — said that the post wouldn’t be the first organization to hold a liquor license under potentially false pretenses. The city has many veterans organizations and fraternal groups that operate after-hours bars not necessarily for the primary benefit of their own members.
“To me, what’s pretty clear is there’s an exploitation of the law. With veterans groups, generally the state is a little more lenient issuing licenses when it comes to late closing times. It’s a loophole that’s being exploited,” Boyle said.
The lawmaker said he would question the state Liquor Control Board’s chairman, former Congressman Tim Holden, during upcoming House budget hearings about the board’s licensing practices.
White, who also represents a portion of Bustleton, said that she would also urge the LCB and liquor enforcement to examine the history of Post 162’s license, which is due for a semi-annual renewal by Oct. 31.
Grossman, the L&I official, said that city code requires the club to stop any live music and dancing at 2 a.m., although the city has no jurisdiction in alcohol sales, which can continue until 3 a.m. Both she and Gormley encouraged neighbors to call 911 if they see anything inappropriate going on there. ••