HomeNewsPort Richmond’s Shenanigans looks to Front Street

Port Richmond’s Shenanigans looks to Front Street

Patrick Murray and Colleen Murray, who are trying to open a bar at 1624 N. Front Street, at a community meeting held to discuss concern and details about the project Wednesday Aug. 31.

Neighbors say the intersection of Front Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue in Kensington is a “dead corner.”

The unlit area is home to a vacant building and abandoned lots where locals easily recall dead bodies being discovered.

But, that could change with a proposal for a new business at 1624 N. Front St.

The business would be “Shenanigans II” an offshoot of Port Richmond’s popular Shenanigans Saloon.

During a contentious meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 30, at St. Boniface Church at Diamond and Hancock streets, Shenanigan’s owners, Patrick and Colleen Murray, presented a plan that would turn the long-vacant building at that location into an 800-square-foot bar and restaurant with room for about 50 patrons.

Manuel Portillo, director of adult services for the Norris Square Civic Association, led the meeting while often pausing to translate for the many Spanish-speaking Kensington residents on hand for the meeting.

The Murrays worked two years to get the zoning changes needed to operate their business, but are now looking for community support for their liquor license.

However, Portillo said residents primarily have been concerned that, if the business isn’t well-managed, it could become a nuisance bar.

“There have been no cultural confrontations here,” he said. “People, when given the opportunity, will do the right thing and I think what happened here was that people had reasonable concerns and he [Patrick Murray] was willing to answer.”

“This is a community for everybody and we want to keep it like that,” he said.

In fact, to ease some concerns, by the end of the meeting, the Murrays tentatively agreed to sign a Community Benefits Agreement under the authority of the Norris Square Civic Association and the Kensington South Neighborhood Advisory Committee.

But, early on in the meeting, it was obvious that some didn’t want a new bar in the community, no matter what concessions the Murrays were willing to make.

While the meeting began with many residents seemingly skeptical about the possibility of a new nightspot in the area, over the course of the meeting, the Murrays tried to ease concerns and they provided information on how far they were willing to go to assure residents that they would be creating a business that would be an asset to the community.

“Right now, that’s a vacant building. It’s had squatters in it and it’s an eyesore,” said Patrick Murray. “I think it could really be an attraction for the neighborhood.”

Murray said that, like his Port Richmond bar, the new venue would be a sports bar with eight TVs and a full menu, meaning more than bar foods would be offered.

The Murrays hope to hire about 20 people to staff the bar.

Also, as part owner of TLA Video, which recently closed its Center City store, Murray intends to use mahogany shelving that had been used to display videos for the bar.

“I want to recycle where I can,” he said. “All our doors and windows will be handmade, too.”

In order to show their intentions to be good neighbors, the Murrays presented letters of support for their project from City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez (D-7th dist.), the Fishtown Neighbors Association — where they also presented the plan to residents — and the 26th Police District.

Officer Megan Fabrizio, crime prevention officer of that district, said in a letter of support that the police reviewed the history of the couple’s Port Richmond bar and it’s a “no Shenanigan type of business.”

The Murrays said they also met with representatives of the Philadelphia School District, which had no opposition to their proposal.

Yet, in order to obtain the liquor license needed for the bar, the two were seeking support from residents last week, and neighbors remained cautious of the proposal.

Nick Noel, a nearby neighbor, said he came to the meeting with intentions of voting against the proposal, but he had changed his mind by the end of the night.

“I wasn’t for it,” he said. “But, I’d rather see something there than nothing. Right now, it’s a dead corner.”

Over the night, the Murrays asked what they could do to be a good neighbor, and residents responded with a list of needs for the CBA in order to be comfortable with the project.

These needs included outdoor lighting — they intend to install 10 outdoor lights as well as security cameras — a bouncer and extra security person on busy nights to monitor the areas outside the bar.

Also, residents asked that the Murrays hire someone to clean the areas within a 100-foot radius of the bar to keep it free of debris. A designated outdoor smoking area and an additional male urinal — to keep patrons from using the street side when nature calls — were also part of a proposed CBA.

The Murrays also said they wouldn’t sell 40-oz to-go beers, but they would sell six-packs and that the neighborhood would be notified when jobs were available so that the staff could be hired from the community.

Finally, as the project progresses, the couple intends to develop the second floor into a banquet hall to rent out for functions. The third floor would be made into an apartment for the Murrays to use as a home.

In fact, even before they move in, Colleen Murray said she’d be on hand every day as bar manager to help ensure that the business wouldn’t become a nuisance property.

“We aren’t going to be absentee owners,” she promised. “I’ll be there on a daily basis.”

At the end of the meeting, the groups decided to hold another meeting to allow residents to review the CBA before any decision is made to the support the liquor license.

That meeting will be held on Sept. 9, though no time or place was yet announced for the follow up.

After the meeting had ended and residents seemed comfortable with the CBA, Patrick Murray said he, too, felt comfortable with the concessions he had made to make the agreement.

“I’m comfortable enough. Nothing’s unreasonable,” he said of the conditions of the CBA. “It’s a perfect spot … I mean, picture South Street with no bars. It will bring in people and people will be out spending in the community so it will bring in other businesses, too.”

Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215–354–3124 or hmitman@bsmphilly.com

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