Chickie’s & Pete’s Crab House and Sports Bar on Packer Avenue is hoping to gain approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment to dedicate 2,607 square feet of the restaurant into a sports book and pari-mutuel wagering space in a partnership with Bucks County-based Parx Casino.
According to the application, the wagering space would be within the confines of the existing Chickie’s & Pete’s building and would not include any additional signage outside. The proposal does not permit any new construction of additional buildings or annexes. The Packer Park Civic Association, which was incorporated in June 1990 to uphold and maintain civic pride and improve living conditions in its neighborhood south of Oregon Avenue, is worried about what could follow.
“Once they get in, who knows?” asked civic association president Barbara Capozzi. “They can start bringing in slot machines down the line. The state is so hungry for money and it can’t live within its means so they come up with bad vices to make money … You either have a family restaurant or you don’t. People have to decide what they want in their neighborhood.”
The Packer Park Civic Association will host a meeting outside of the Philadium sports bar at 1631 Packer Ave. under a tent on Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. for residents to weigh in on the proposal. For those who cannot attend in person, there will be a Zoom link provided on the civic association’s website at www.packerparkcivic.com.
“(Chickie’s & Pete’s) is obligated to notify a very small amount of people and I am obligated to notify as many people as I can,” Capozzi said. “I don’t know what the restrictions will be on Feb. 1 but we have to have it outside. We’re trying to have a hybrid meeting (with Zoom).”
The application will be heard by the zoning board on Feb. 10, and Capozzi hopes the civic association can present a strong case of opposition. She said normally the association would try to petition residents but because of the pandemic, people don’t want to go door to door. Therefore, a public meeting is essential to having the neighborhood’s voice heard. She said an online petition gathered 400 votes against the proposal and just one in favor.
“It’s kind of mandatory to try to take the temperature of what the neighbors want,” Capozzi said. “But it’s very hard to do at this time.”
Chickie’s & Pete’s now has 17 locations, including its start-up on Robbins Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia and a spot inside Parx Casino in Bensalem. The South Philadelphia location opened on July 4 weekend in 2003. Its owner and CEO, Pete Ciarrocchi, also was a part-owner of the former Philadelphia Soul arena football team.
Residents in the Packer Park neighborhood will also see the Live! Casino and Hotel Philadelphia, owned by Cordish Gaming, open on Packer Avenue on the other side of Broad Street next month.