Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

First Drinks Served in Bellevue, Wilkinsburg

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

First Drinks Served in Bellevue, Wilkinsburg

Article excerpt

Prohibition officially ended in Bellevue last Friday and in Wilkinsburg last month, about 80 years after the nationwide ban on alcohol was lifted in 1933.

Despite the lifting of the ban, in towns such as Bellevue and Wilkinsburg, the law wasn't repealed until this year.

The first drink was poured in Bellevue at 6 p.m. by Mark Helbling, the first owner of a liquor license in the town. Mr. Helbling, a former Bellevue councilman, invited everyone to his restaurant, Grille 565, for a "Grand Re-opening Celebration" as the formerly "dry" town kicked off its first-ever happy hour.

Resident Vince Dish won the honor of being the first person ever to buy a drink in Bellevue by donating $5 to a raffle to benefit the North Suburban Chamber of Commerce and the Bellevue Volunteer Fire Company. But when Mr. Helbling poured the glass of cabernet, Mr. Dish insisted that the first drink be imbibed by the first license owner.

"Bellevue has always been a special town with some great shops and restaurants," Mr. Helbling said. "We feel privileged to be the first ones [to sell alcohol], and we plan to set an example of operating with class and integrity."

After spending the past seven years trying to overturn the borough's anti-liquor law with a majority vote, Mr. Helbling was part of a group of concerned citizens - including Aaron Stubna, Grant Saylor, Tom Fodi and Councilwoman Kathy Coder -who were finally successful in convincing residents that allowing up to two liquor licenses would make Bellevue's business district a more attractive place to shop and dine.

It was a hard-won fight. The group's referendum lost by fewer than 100 votes in 2011, and then even more stringent anti-alcohol laws were enacted when a BYOB amendment letting restaurants serve alcohol at sidewalk venues was turned down, and in 2012, when a new law made it illegal to consume alcoholic beverages in public.

Mr. Saylor and Mr. Fodi were elected to fill council seats and will begin serving Jan. 1. According to Mr. Fodi, Bellevue's lawmakers have been following Lawrenceville's example by establishing a community action group called A Better Bellevue.

"Representatives from council, business owners and citizens will be able to review and intervene in the LCB process," said Mr. …

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