DA closes bar where 3 shootings occurred

Lycoming County District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt announced Thursday that Port Tavern, 835 Franklin St., has been permanently closed.

The establishment was shut down after being deemed a “public nuisance” following a string of criminal incidents that took place at the bar, including three shootings between September 2013 and March 2014.

“Franklin Street had become unsafe, loud and dangerous,” Linhardt said during a news conference.

On March 13, the bar was closed by the Williamsport Bureau of Codes for a health code violation. At the time, the district attorney’s office met with owners Brian J. Nasdeo and Benjamin Z. Mayer, both of Williamsport, and filed an injunction against the bar for it to remain closed. The owners agreed not to re-open and recently signed a new deed that prevents the address from ever acting as a liquor establishment again.

Among criminal charges of assault, public intoxication, disturbances and destruction of property, the bar also received five warnings from the state Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement for violation noise disturbances and allowing gambling on the premises and citations for furnishing alcohol to a minor and failure to require patrons to leave the bar at the required time.

City police Capt. Michael Orwig said the department received 13 handwritten complaints from residents during the investigation.

Orwig said police will not tolerate the type of behavior that occurred at Port Tavern and hopes that this closure will send a “wake-up call” to other bars in the city.

Representing the neighborhood residents was Harold Lutz, of 822 Franklin St. He thanked the district attorney and police for their action.

“My wife isn’t crying anymore because of shootings,” he said.

Lutz, who has lived at his current address for 40 years, said the bar wasn’t always a problem. The trouble began around 2007, he said, and with the business’ newer clientele, went downhill.

Now that the establishment has been closed, Lutz says the neighborhood has been much quieter and a more enjoyable place to live.

County Commissioner Jeff Wheeland and Mayor Gabriel J. Campana also spoke during the conference.

Campana stressed the importance of residential areas in Williamsport.

“Neighborhoods are the backbone of our city,” he said. “These people deserve the best.”

And Wheeland assures that the county will make sure the best is what the residents get.

“If folks cannot conduct business properly, we have and we will do whatever is in the scope of the law to make sure they leave those neighborhoods,” he said.