Philipsburg Wine Walk waits on council

Philipsburg’s first two Wine Walks drew business downtown, but the event drew resistance from Borough Council last week.

Philipsburg Revitalization Corp. Executive Director Dana Shoemaker is planning the third Wine Walk in as many years for May 29. She asked council last week to close Front Street for a few hours that evening, a request that was approved for the first two Wine Walks.

Some council members, however, raised concerns that the event violates an ordinance that prohibits the possession of open containers of alcohol on borough property.

Council voted 2-2 on a motion that would have allowed it to draw up a draft that would repeal the general open container policy.

Council President Barbara Gette and Councilman John Knowles voted in favor, but members Wanda McDonald and Sam Womer voted against. Council members Fred Grauch, Harry Wood and Sharon Goss and Mayor John Streno, who could have broken the tie, did not attend the meeting.

The ordinance, however, cannot be enforced, because the borough does not have a police department.

“The issue really hasn’t come up before, because there’s no one to enforce the ordinance and it’s a local borough issue,” Gette said. “The real concern from a few council members is it’s not legal, but all we’d have to do is repeal it because we know it’s not enforceable.”

Gette said it should be repealed because the event brings in business and activity into the business district.

“Everyone enjoys it and behaves themselves,” she said. “It’s a nice evening to get the community together and to bring other people to our beautiful community.”

The event, which would be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. if the borough approves the street closure, is a walk in which participants visit designated downtown businesses.

Last year, 11 businesses hosted eight wineries, which cannot give out more than two ounces to each person. The businesses provided finger food, and the wineries can sell bottles.

Ricotta Jewelry co-owner Joan Ricotta said she invited other local businesses into her shop to provide food. Chef Jeremy Jones, who worked for Six Yellow Chairs during the first Wine Walk, made appetizers. Hi-Way Pizza owner Jerry Lese made food for the second Wine Walk.

“I think it’s a great community event, one of the biggest we have to get so many people downtown at one time,” Ricotta said. “We get a lot of new faces, and I get business later on because of what people have seen. There was a really good response.”

The Wine Walk, Shoemaker said, sold out of $10 tickets the past two years. The first Wine Walk sold 300 tickets and the second 500.

“The first two went off great and got people downtown on Friday night when I might lose them elsewhere,” Shoemaker said. “These 500 people come downtown with mostly disposable income in a two and a half hour period.”

She said the event brings a “classier feel” and attracts people who drink wine to walk and shop downtown.

If the council does not allow the event to take place as it did before, Shoemaker said she would plan to have it in private parking lots on Front and Second streets.

“If that’s the alternate route we go, I can’t guarantee businesses will see all those people they saw before,” she said.