Planning Commission Approves Waiver for Tap Room

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The city’s planning commission approved a waiver Tuesday for Thomas Brothers Co. that would allow the firm to open a new bar and restaurant downtown.

Joseph Thomas told members of the planning commission that should all go according to plan, the new establishment, Whistle & Keg, should be open by the middle of September.

The company requested the planning commission waive a provision that prohibits a regulated use within 500 feet of another regulated use, in this case a restaurant and bar.

Whistle & Keg is billed as a self-serve taproom in which patrons can pour their own craft beer and wine. The concept, Thomas said, has become popular in major metropolitan markets on the East and West coasts.

Thomas said the bar would be open seven days a week, from about noon until 11 p.m. from Sunday through Wednesday, and from noon until 2 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Earlier, the city’s board of zoning appeals elected to defer two measures until next month’s meeting related to the status of two Sober Houses, one on the North Side at 2259 Selma Ave. and another on the city’s South Side at 478 Mistletoe Ave.

VEC Enterprises has petitioned the appeals board to consider reasonable accommodations for its Selma Avenue home under the Fair Housing Act. The appeals board recommended in April that group’s appeal to operate the home in a single-family zoned residential area be denied, but the home is still operating.

The issue drew dozens of North Side residents to the meeting who oppose the establishment of another group home on this part of the city.

Salvatore Vecchinone, who operates the sober house, told the appeals board that the residence offers a safe, comfortable way for addicts to recover. There are seven residents in the 2,800 square-foot house, including Vecchione.

“It fits right into the neighborhood,” Vecchione said, noting none of the residents have caused problems.

Former Mayor George McKelvey, a lifelong North Side resident, told the zoning board that the real issue is over-saturation of these homes on this side of town.

“I’m asking the city to review the number of group homes or sober homes on the North Side to determine if the North Side has its fair share of group homes,” he said.

Should the city find that there is too heavy a concentration of these homes on the North Side, then “it would not be unreasonable” for applicants to locate in other parts of the city, McKelvey said.

Other North Side residents voiced similar concerns, and raised issues about crime, property values, traffic safety and how these homes affect the community.

“There are too many group homes,” said Third Ward Councilman Nate Pinkard. “We don’t know who’s in these houses.”

Pictured: Joe Thomas, William Begalla and Mike Thomas hold a break whistle that was used at the old Youngstown Sheet & Tube plant. The Thomas brothers are opening the Whistle & Keg in a downtown Youngstown building Begalla owns. 

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