ZBA shoots down sports betting at Chickie’s

In April, South Philly residents rallied outside Chickie's and Pete's to protest an application for sports betting inside the restaurant. Photo/Mark Zimmaro
In April, South Philly residents rallied outside Chickie’s and Pete’s to protest an application for sports betting inside the restaurant. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

The City’s Zoning Board of Adjustment has denied an application to allow a sports betting parlor at the Chickie’s and Pete’s Restaurant in South Philly.

The Zoning Board voted 4-1 against the application on June 9, which prevented the restaurant chain from proceeding with its plan to allow Parx Casino to move its off-track betting site at the South Philadelphia Turf Club at 700 Packer Ave. about nine blocks west to lease a 2,600-square-foot area inside Chickie’s & Pete’s, which is located at 1526 Packer Ave. in the Packer Park Shopping Center.

According to the application, Chickie’s and Pete’s would have designated 59 seats inside the restaurant to be utilized for sports betting and pari-mutuel wagering space, which would include kiosks, tellers and three security guards.

The Packer Park Civic Association has fought hard against the proposal, claiming that it would be a nuisance to the residential area that surrounds the shopping center. The civic association celebrated the decision and released a statement on its website on Wednesday.

“We are grateful that the Zoning Board today agreed that a gambling parlor does not belong in a residential neighborhood, and especially not in Packer Park, one of Philadelphia’s greatest communities,” the statement said. “Our civic association and our residents are strong and vocal and we joined together to have a say in what happens here. We look forward to Chickie’s & Pete’s – as a family restaurant – continuing to be a part of our neighborhood for many years to come. This heroic decision re-affirms that good, hard-working, tax-paying residents have a right to determine what happens in their community. We work so hard here to keep people in the city, keep our own community safe and drug-free, and support working families by providing a safe and welcoming community. We testified that we feel we have earned the right to say ‘no’ to a use that will only serve to erode the beautiful community that we have built. This renews our faith in the system, and in the hard work that our community and civic assoc. has always done to defend itself.”

Chickie’s and Pete’s includes 16 locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Its owner and founder, Pete Ciarrocchi, has partnered with Parx for 11 years at the Bucks County casino, and the two also do business via a sports book at the Chickie’s & Pete’s location in Egg Harbor Township.

The restaurant chain and casino will have the opportunity to appeal the decision, which the civic association said it is expecting. At least temporarily, the betting parlor is on hold.

“A purpose of a zoning code is to protect the community,” said Paul Boni, attorney for the Packer Park Civic Association. “And while people can debate whether gambling parlors are already located too conveniently near residential communities, this proposal was to install a sports book into a neighborhood shopping center, into an establishment that caters to children. Government is beginning to see that there should be some limit.”