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Local restaurants experience difficulty obtaining liquor licenses

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In a situation that has been brewing for a while (no pun intended), many new restaurants are having difficulty obtaining liquor licences in the Lehigh Valley. The are two main factors: the price is extremely prohibitive for most restaurants and only a limited number are available in the area.

The Valley, which includes both Lehigh and Northampton counties, has seen the price of the license, rise dramatically. In Lehigh county, it costs $200,000 for license; and Northampton has seen it prices rise from $80,000 to $100,000 in the last few years.

With the price of license being so expensive, some smaller or concept Valley restaurants will seek a special state economic development license for liquor, which only cost $50,000. This was the action taken by Bethlehem's Mint Gastropub in 2011.

Liquor licenses were already hard to come by in the Valley after the opening of the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley and and the Lehigh Valley Mall lifestyle center. Now with the Allentown center city redevelopment around the hockey arena, it is even more difficult.

The delay has caused many restaurants in the arena zone to see a liquor license from an existing place of business, but that requires Allentown city council approval. Four restaurants in the zone have obtained transfers and the council is considering transferring the license from the Beef House at the Westgate Mall to Charles Street Capital, a restaurant planned for 612 W. Hamilton Street.

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