Restaurateurs hoping to open in the city are almost guaranteed a challenge to their liquor licenses. Neighborhood associations want assurances that these bars won't become nuisances, or that they won't otherwise detract from the quality of life.
Oppositions to liquor licenses in most suburban towns are rare - rarer still if they're not in the heart of a residential neighborhood.
Consider The Saint James, an American restaurant planned for Suburban Square in Ardmore. It'll take over the Victoria's Secret.
Restaurateurs Rob Wasserman and Michael Schulson got the blessing of Kimco Realty, which operates Suburban Square, as well as the Lower Merion Township commissioners.
But I see that they have one opponent, whose petition before the state Liquor Control Board may delay the project a month, pending a hearing: It's David Mantelmacher, who's owned the restaurant Plate in Suburban Square for nearly nine years.
To Mantelmacher, it's about congestion. "We've had parking issues at Suburban Square, and I want to make sure they're resolved," he said, denying that he's trying to stick it to a new competitor. "There's not enough parking, especially during the day. Unless they can build a lot, I don't know how they accommodate any more cars." He cites the Apple store for sucking up a lot of spaces.
When customers can't park, Mantelmacher says, they'll go elsewhere to eat. "The mouths are perishable," he said.
Kimco's Nina Rogers, noting that the Saint James plans to offer valet: "It is a busy shopping center, which is a great problem." As for a parking problem, she added: "That's David's opinion."
The odd twist is that many city restaurateurs - such as Wasserman (Rouge) and Schulson (Sampan) - yearn for the relative simplicity of operating in the suburbs, away from the city bureaucracy and parking hassles.
Wasserman said: "Though we are surprised and disappointed by the decision of Plate’s ownership to petition against us for the use of liquor, Michael and I are 100 percent committed to move forward as planned and deeply touched by the overwhelming support by the township and the community. We are very excited to become a part of the neighborhood."