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New restaurant coming to Allentown's former O'Malley's Pub

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 30 2013 06:46:08 AM CDT
Allentown Zoning Board
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

The creation of a new restaurant in the former J.P. O’Malley’s Pub was approved by the Allentown Zoning Hearing Board Monday night.

Owner Ed Hanna of Whitehall said his still unnamed establishment won’t open until late this year or early 2014, after he makes renovations designed to put more emphasis on dining rather than drinking. “We don’t want it to feel like a pub,” aid Hanna.

The zoners agreed to allow the new restaurant at W. Union and Fulton streets to remain open until midnight every night and to have 100 seats. Before O’Malley’s closed in 2009, it stayed open until 2 a.m. and also had 100 seats.

Hanna said his restaurant will specialize in “farm to table” foods. He previously told zoners he wants the former pub to be an eating establishment where drinks are served rather than a drinking establishment where food is served.

Monday’s hearing was the fourth time Hanna has been before zoners with his proposal for the restaurant/bar at 1520-1530 Union St.

He first went before them in August and his application was approved in September – but with conditions. Zoners allowed no more than 80 seats and the place had to close at 10 p.m. every night except Friday and Saturday, when it could remain open until midnight.

Because of the reduction in the hours and number of seats, that decision was appealed to Lehigh County Court. Judge Judge Michele Varracchio sent it back to the zoning board for a review.

Zoners now say there is only a remote likelihood the restaurant will have 100 customers at one time.

“It’s been a well-established taproom/restaurant combination for many, many years,” said zoner Michael Engle. He recommended that Hanna maintain a good relationship with the neighborhood, noting some neighbors have been “up in arms” about the place reopening.

Board chairman Dan McCarthy said he was encouraged by the way Hanna has reached out to those neighbors, based on testimony from some of them at prior meetings.

Also during the meeting, zoners approved a store selling used furniture and used appliances in part of a vacant building at 140 N. Front St.

Applicant Hector Vazquez of Bethlehem said he has been in the moving business for 20 years. He explained some people he moves don’t take all their stuff, so he buys it from them and resells it to others who can’t afford new furniture and appliances.

The store will be open six days a week, closed Sundays. Vazquez said he will make minor repairs before selling some of the merchandise. He said things that don’t sell will be shipped to Puerto Rico.

A wooden sign will bear the name of the business: Papolo’s Moving and Shipping. He estimated he will only get about 50 customers a week.

Vazquez has a five-year lease on the property but said he is not the only tenant.

He does not want to pave the adjoining gravel parking lot because that would cost too much: $11,000. “But if I have to do it, I’ll do it,” he added.

Zoners will give Vazquez until September 2014 to pave a section of the gravel lot. He also must plant four trees somewhere on the property.

The zoning board also approved construction of a two-level warehouse on a vacant lot at 650 E. Washington St.

Applicant John Troxell needed a variance to zoning stipulations that prohibit vehicles from backing onto a street and require four trees be planted along Washington Street. Only two will be planted and the city will be given money to plant two more elsewhere.

The 70-by-100-foot structure will have three parking spaces along Washington Street and people using those spaces will have to back out into the street when leaving. It will be built in a commercial neighborhood where many other businesses also have lots that require backing out onto streets, some busier than Washington Street.

Also on the city’s east side, zoners approved installing an apartment in the vacant first floor office at 1108-1116 E. Livingston St., with conditions that will make the entire property look more like a residence.

Applicant Rodolf Hanna, who owns the property, said the building already has two apartment units on the upper levels: a two-bedroom unit on the second floor and a one-bedroom unit on the third floor. Hanna said the first floor last was used commercially about 24 months ago, as an electrical union’s office.

Hanna proposed adding two more two-bedroom units on the first floor, for a total of four. But zoners approved three units. McCarthy suggested combining the second and third floor units, but zoners left the configuration up to the applicant.

When the first level is converted, the new windows and doors must be “residential in nature.”

At the suggestion of zoner Scott Unger, the board will require the applicant to remove part of the 17-space paved parking lot to create a yard “with lawn and landscaping” between the building and Livingston Street.

Unger said only five spaces are needed for three apartments. He noted the building “may have started life as a single-family dwelling.”