The fight over outdoor dining at Maggie’s Waterfront Cafe is heating up.
Inspectors from the Department of Licenses and Inspections visited the property on Thursday, days after a judge denied a motion by the restaurant’s owner that would have allowed Maggie’s to keep its patio open.
L&I plans to issue an order requiring the restaurant to shut down its outdoor seating area, a department spokesperson told the Northeast Times.
Meanwhile, Maggie’s owner Kevin Goodchild is listening to offers to sell the popular riverfront bar and restaurant he opened 11 years ago. He said his willingness to sell has nothing to do with frequent clashes over the years with nearby residents and the East Torresdale Civic Association.
“The restaurant business is tough enough. I don’t want to blame it on the neighbors,” Goodchild said. “The restaurant business is seven days a week, 24 hours a day. That’s what it comes down to. You don’t get any holidays.”
At least two groups are interested in buying Maggie’s, Goodchild said. No deal has been finalized.
Goodchild opened Maggie’s at 9242 N. Delaware Ave. in 2008. He also runs Goodchild’s Repair Center, an auto shop in Holmesburg. Goodchild said he plans to focus on that business and spending time with his family if he steps away from Maggie’s.
For now, the patio, one of many gripes neighbors have with the restaurant, remains open.
“Considering the violation does not create any life/safety concerns, Maggie’s has been given 30 days to either comply voluntarily, file an appeal, or obtain a stay,” city spokeswoman Lauren Cox said in an email.
In April, Court of Common Pleas Judge Edward Wright ruled in favor of the ETCA and overturned a 2018 Zoning Board of Adjustment decision that gave Maggie’s the right to open the patio.
ETCA’s argument centered on a proviso in a 2014 variance that allowed Maggie’s to undergo a significant expansion. That proviso specifically prohibited outdoor dining.
Goodchild’s attorneys appealed the decision to Commonwealth Court, a Harrisburg-based panel of judges, and filed a motion with the Court of Common Pleas to delay the ruling until the higher court made its decision.
Wright, after an Aug. 5 hearing at City Hall, denied the motion. Maggie’s lawyers proceeded to file an emergency motion Aug. 8 asking the Commonwealth Court to suspend enforcement on the patio.
Attorneys for both sides are scheduled to argue the motion in front of the court by telephone on Thursday, Aug. 29, according to court records. The hearing will fall within 30 days of the L&I order, which means a decision may be made before the department shuts down the outdoor seating area at Maggie’s.
Residents at the Aug. 12 ETCA discussed Maggie’s, with rumors swirling about the potential sale. Some at the meeting expressed concern that L&I wasn’t enforcing the court’s decision.
ETCA member Frank Bell said Maggie’s should have been forced to stop outdoor dining immediately after Wright’s ruling on April 17.
“He is not supposed to be open,” Bell said. “That’s how it works. That’s the law.”
L&I told the Times in June that the department was waiting for a decision on a Court of Common Pleas stay motion before issuing a cease operations order.
ETCA attorney Laurence A. Mester contacted L&I Commissioner David Perri on Aug. 6 and, in effect, urged him to shut down the patio, according to an email chain obtained by the Times. Perri responded by saying he would talk it over with his legal team before sending inspectors out to the property. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.