What is a public nuisance bar?
A “public nuisance bar” is one with illegal or unreasonable conditions or activities that interfere with public rights or prevents law-abiding members of the community from living in peace. Examples of such conditions or activities include:
Pennsylvania law provides three ways to stop a public nuisance bar. They are:
Controlled Substances Forfeiture Act, 42 Pa CSA §6801, §6802
This law allows the District Attorney’s Office to file a civil action in court seeking forfeiture of a property being in violation of the drug laws.
- Under §6801 (a)(6)(i)(C) Real property used or intended to be used to facilitate any violation of The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, will be subject to forfeiture to the Commonwealth.
- Under §6801 (a)(6)(ii), however, no property shall be forfeited if the owner did not have knowledge or give consent to the drug activity.
- Meaning we must be able to prove that the owner of the bar knew or should have known that the location was being used to store, package or distribute narcotics.
Drug Nuisance Law, 42 Pa CSA §8381
Wherever there is reason to believe that a drug related nuisance exists, the District Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General, if requested by the District Attorney’s Office, the City Solicitor, a resident within 1,000 feet of a property, or a community based organization may file an action in the Court of Common Pleas to abate the nuisance. The law defines the term “drug-related nuisance” in sweeping terms as: “the use of any property, in whole or in part, which facilitates or is intended to facilitate a violation of the Controlled Substance Act.”
Section 6-611 of the Pennsylvania Liquor code, 47 Pa CSA §6-611
The Liquor Code states in relevant part that:
(b) An action to enjoin any nuisance defined in this act may be brought in the name of the district attorney, of the proper county or by a person who resides or has a place of business within 500 feet of the location of the alleged nuisance….If it is made to appear, by affidavit or otherwise, to the satisfaction of the court that such nuisance exists, a temporary writ of injunction shall forthwith issue, restraining the defendant from conducting or permitting the continuance of such nuisance until the conclusion of the proceedings….
Who can bring a 611 Action?
Section §611 of the Liquor code empower the following parties to bring an action in the name of the Commonwealth:
The Attorney General
Pennsylvania State Police through the bureau of Liquor Enforcement
The municipality where the establishment is located
The District Attorney of the county where the establishment is located
A person or community group who resides or has a place of business within 500 feet of the location of the nuisance (47 Pa CSA §6-611(b))
Identifying Nuisance Bars
Although there may be numerous ways to identify a nuisance bar, the most common avenues are through:
The goal is to identify the most problematic bars, and target them. Word of this project is expected to travel quickly among Berks County bar owners, so a strong example must be set wit the bars that are targeted.
Once a significant amount of material from the above sources (police reports, LCE and City Code citations, citizens complaints, and completed Affidavits) are collected, the owner of the bar will be contacted and asked to come to the District Attorney’s Office for a meeting.
The owner will be presented with the evidence of the nuisance they are causing. If a bar owner is interested in putting an end to the nuisance, then we will discuss acceptable solutions that can be implemented along with a time line for completion.
It is important to note that it is not our goal to shut down bars. It is our goal to target nuisance bars and to educate them regarding the law and to provide them the information and tools that will give the bar an opportunity to rectify their problems and to bring their establishment into compliance with local and state regulations.
Representatives of the police, LCE, City Codes or Township and Municipal Code Enforcement Officers and community associations will be encouraged to be part of this meeting to underscore to the bar owner the level of commitment to ending the nuisance.
Should a bar owner not be interested in working with the local police department, LCS, Codes or local community groups to resolve it’s problems, then other action will be taken. We will ask the bar owner to take the appropriate steps to resolve its own problems, however, if the bar does not carry out and implement solutions to resolve problems in and outside their establishments, an action under the aforementioned statutes will be commenced.
To file a complaint about a Nuisance Bar
Download a Citizens Affidavit, print the form, complete the form and return it to the Berks County District Attorney's Office, 633 Court Street, 5th Floor Services Center, Reading, Pa, 19601. attn: Nuisance Bar Project.