Cal U. official claims borough alcohol sale ordinance violates state law

November 7, 2012

A California University of Pennsylvania official claims a recently adopted borough ordinance seeking to regulate the sale of alcohol at the school’s Convocation Center violates state law.

California Borough Council approved the ordinance by a vote of 6-1 at a special hearing Nov. 1 establishing an attendance-based fee for any events that include the sale of alcohol in the university’s 6,000-seat building. Councilman Phil Difilippo cast the lone vote against the ordinance.

The fee begins at $750 for events with 1,499 people or fewer in attendance and increases by $750 for every additional 1,500 guests, topping out at $3,750 for a packed house.

During the hearing, Craig Butzine, vice president for marketing and university relations at Cal U., read a statement calling the ordinance “unnecessary and illegal.”

“There is no need for the proposed ordinance because the borough code in its current state already permits liquor licensees like the university’s vendors to sell liquor in areas zoned institutional,” he said.

According to Butzine, the ordinance violates state law because it openly tries to tax the university. He also said the university has tried to cooperate with the borough, but its efforts have been increasingly ignored.

“The borough is aware that this tax would be illegal,” he said. “To be sure, the university reminded the borough of this fact in a letter that the university sent to the borough’s lawyer just a few weeks ago, right before the borough announced this hearing.”

Neither borough council members nor the borough solicitor could be reached for comment.

Andy McNeil has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2011 as a general assignment reporter. He covers courts and education, and also serves as a photographer and videographer. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University, The Behrend College, with a degree in English; Duquense University with a post-baccalaureate paralegal certificate, and Point Park University with a graduate degree in journalism and mass communication.

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