After several meetings discussing the topic, the State College Borough Council approved a liquor license transfer request from Penn State alumni Martin and Deanna Gillespie, who plan to bring a New Zealand-inspired restaurant called Queenstown to downtown State College.
The vote at Monday's meeting was 4-1 in favor of the request, with the only opposition being from Councilwoman Theresa Lafer, who expressed concerns of the restaurant taking advantage of the approved 40 percent food-to-alcohol sale ratio to become an additional bar in the area.
Though Martin stated again that an alcohol-based establishment is not what he intends to run, he did say he was happy with the outcome of the vote.
“I think the council did their homework… I certainly understand their concerns, but we have five places in San Diego and we have never converted to a bar,” he said at the conclusion of the meeting. “I wanted to make an iconic, great place to eat. There’s a lot to offer in this community and as businesses, we need to offer it to the locals as well and not just concentrate on the students.”
Intended to occupy the former location of Spats Cafe and Speakeasy, the restaurant would “ideally” be open by Oct. 1, but Gillespie said Jan. 1 would be more realistic.
Continued discussions on local law enforcement, community response
The council also continued its on-going discussion of the police-involved shooting of State College resident Osaze Osagie, Trump’s recent remarks regarding certain congresswomen of color and how the council should interact with local police.
A man, who solely identified himself by “H” stood at the podium in front of the State College Borough Council and thanked President Donald Trump for “bringing the issues that underline American Society.”
At the start of the meeting, Councilman David Brown read a letter from the State College Police which questioned if the council was in tune with the realities faced by officers.
In response, Brown proposed to the council that it schedule ridealongs, tours and council immersions to better understand and strengthen relations with the department.
“I do believe we as a council as indeed all future councils may have a responsibility to do more, learn more and get more involved where our police department is concerned,” Brown said.
Councilman Dan Murphy asked to further investigate current technology used by the police, specifically referring to tasers which were used in the March killing of Osagie.
Councilwoman Theresa Lafer spoke on treatment of local police — a topic she said she has recently been silent about.
“I think we need to dial back the attacks and push forward on the concerns and I think we will do more effectively if we can do that,” she said.
She said she has lived in an area where police are “known to be corrupt,” and that her comfort with the State College department is something she does not take “lightly.”
She added that she does not feel families of police should by “harassed” based on the actions of the officers.
There were three representatives of the 3/20 Coalition in the audience, which most recently had a “die-in” protest in front of the Municipal building last Saturday to continue raising awareness about Osagie’s death and need for mental health reform.
Several members of the 3/20 Coalition lay on the floor as their bodies are traced in chalk to bring awareness to the continued efforts to gain justice for Osaze Osagie and mental health reform pic.twitter.com/zmjOaTlqao— Lilly Forsyth (@lillyforsyth_) July 13, 2019
Millheim-resident Melanie Morrison stepped up to the podium wearing the bleached 3/20 Coalition black tank tops commonly seen on members. She stated that the members’ presence was to remind the council of the group's goals.
She also informed the council that after she spoke out about Osagie at the Happy Valley Music fest where she performed, she soon found a broken pair of scissors in her tires.
“This was not an accident,” Morrison said.
She, and later another member, Stacey Garbrick, asked the council for information regarding a rumor that “Officer No. 1” from Osagie’s death has moved out of the area.
Manager Tom Fontaine confirmed that the officer is no longer working for the department, but he did not speak to the whereabouts of the office due to the on-going internal investigation.
A special business item included the approval of a resolution to “support the restoration of local control and to support 5G deployment.”
The resolution seeks to expand the currently available borough broadband service in the community at various establishments around town, to ensure “the digital infrastructure of tomorrow is safe, reliable, and accessible to all of [State College] residents,” according to the document.
Due to opposition from the Federal Commissions Commission, the borough must request that President Donald Trump and others allow an exception in the case of State College.
In May, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly wrote that such a service “seems convoluted and borders on the preposterous.” He continued that a private sector is a contributing factor to the nation’s success.
He compared proposed ideas of achieving the 5G network to “children’s bubbles” which are less “consistent” than “balloons,” which stems from the idea of this project being a “trial balloon.”
Other approved items on the agenda included the following:
— Downtown State College Improvement District Annual Sidewalk Sale: Aug. 3 from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. — The closing of the 100 Block of South Allen Street between East College Avenue and East Beaver Avenue
— Golden Basket Finals: Aug. 3 from 1 to 10 p.m. — Closure of a small portion of the 100 Block of South Fraser Street, use of Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza and open container permit. This event is a live food competition to “promote local agriculture and culinary arts.”
— Havana Fest: Sept. 22 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. — Closure of a small portion of the 100 Block of South Fraser Street, use of Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza and open container permit. This is a Caribbean-themed event with food, music and live demonstrations.
— Annual Food Truck Rally: Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., — the closing of the 200 Block of South Allen Street between East Beaver Avenue and East Foster Avenue
— Project 2B-2019 for Street & Alley Resurfacing to HRI, Inc. awarded $517,996.00
— Project 1R-2019 for Sidewalk Replacement to Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc. awarded $260,750.00
— June Payroll and Accounts Payable Vouchers — $3,005,689.09 approved
— 2019 update for Parking Supply and Demand Study to Kimley-Horn — Professional Services awarded $69,600.00