Harrisburg bar fighting city’s effort to close it

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A Midtown bar is in a battle to keep its license because the city is threatening to revoke its pouring privileges.

Grabbing a cold one on the corner is a routine for Ronnie Mitchell, and he’s not ready to change.

This bar has been here for years, years!” he said. “Even before I was born. Why do they want to shut it down now?”

Mitchell is concerned the city’s attempt to close the Third Street Café would ruin a longtime neighborhood landmark. City officials notified the bar earlier this year that they plan to pull the license because it is a nuisance bar, according to court documents.

Filed on behalf of the city, officials noted occurrences when police responded to the bar for theft, prostitution, drug deals, and even a shooting.

One man in fear of retaliation for revealing his identity said he would speak on anonymity.

“I personally want it shut down, but you know somebody else might feel differently, so it’s gotta be done this way,” he said. “There’s nothing but drugs, crime, fighting and shootings going on around this area, and the city should close it up.”

Earlier this year, Harrisburg closed the Royal Pub at 6th and Schuylkill citing that it, too, was a nuisance bar. The bust of Batman placed on the former bar’s balcony overlooks an empty Gotham below.

The Taproom next-door to the Third Street Café is also in the the city’s crosshairs, but according to Codes Director Dave Patton, the owner was in discussions with solicitor Neil Grover in order for him to sell the establishment. However, the city said since there was no apparent move to sell the business, they will “deal with them” following the appeals hearing for Third Street Café.

Within recent weeks, Third Street Café slapped on a fresh coat of paint. The new look is a way to distance themselves from the former “Club 1400” that did have a few shootings stemming from the bar.

Mitchell argues those days are gone and that Third Street Café is not the only bar susceptible to “knuckleheads.”

“I can name a few bars from Downtown lined up to Midtown that have more drama,” he said.

He pointed out the recent shooting outside Arooga’s on 2nd Street. Police said Keon Porter had a gun inside the bar just before shooting a man outside the establishment two weekends ago.

Mitchell and other bar patrons were quick to point out Mayor Eric Papenfuse’s Midtown Scholar bookstore just down the street. People inside the bar said it was another sign of the neighborhood’s push towards gentrification. In short, they said “money matters in Midtown.”

The topic of perceived nuisance bars has been divisive among the Midtown community. Some allude to race or socio-economic backgrounds as motivating factors for the city. Mayor Eric Papenfuse previously stated the call was from police Chief Thomas Carter, who again assessed the bars based on police response.

Mitchell said Third Street Café is getting pushed out because it doesn’t mix with Midtown’s changing neighborhood towards the affluent.

“It’s a family-owned bar,” he said. “We just want to make it like anyone else.”

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