WILKES-BARRE — An attorney for the Woodlands Inn and Resort said the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board unfairly targeted the facility that is patronized by thousands of people every weekend to a corner bar.
The board on May 1 did not renew the Woodlands liquor license after two days of hearings in November.
In an attempt to show the board’s alleged bias and to continue to serve alcohol, the first of three scheduled days of testimony began Monday before Luzerne County Judge Richard Hughes in an appeal filed by the Woodlands.
Attorney Richard Bishop said the board used 47 police-related incidents at the resort dating back to the mid 1980s in its decision not to renewal the liquor license.
Bishop said the resort has been operating under a conditional licensing agreement reached with the board in October 2011. Any reports and concerns about unruly patrons should have been raised by the board before the conditional agreement was signed, he said.
Bishop called the conditional licensing agreement a “dagger to the heart,” and since the agreement has been in place, there have been no violations of the state liquor code. He said the resort is patronized by thousands of people and for the board to compare it to “Joe’s Bar” on a corner is unfair.
The agreement called for mandating employees to attend gang-awareness training, installation of 44 surveillance cameras and enforcement of a patron dress code. Bishop said the resort has gone above the agreement, including the hiring of law enforcement officers as security.
In a 133-page opinion, the board outlined numerous fights involving patrons and the overuse of pepper spray by security guards.
“The record shows that the majority of (the resort) incidents involve assaults and fights, and the board is disappointed in (the resort’s) failure to provide evidence of substantial timely corrective measures to address these incidents,” the board’s opinion says. “It appears that (the resort’s) utilization of pepper spray is its most prevalent vehicle to deal with incidents; however, this is a reactive and not a proactive measure.”
Plains Township police Lt. Richard Lussi, called to testify by Bishop, said he has not received any complaints from township supervisors or neighbors about the resort. He called the resort’s surveillance system “second to the (Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs) casino.”
The resort can continue to serve alcohol while the appeal proceeds.
It may be several months before Hughes makes a decision on the appeal.