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August 16, 2023

Glenside's Keswick Tavern shut down, raided by state liquor enforcement

Officials say the Montgomery County bar and restaurant was operating with an expired liquor license. All of its alcohol was seized on Tuesday

Investigations PLCB
Keswick Tavern Liquor Raid StreetView/Google Maps

The Keswick Tavern in Glenside was raided by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Liquor Enforcement for operating with an expired license.

The Keswick Tavern, a popular bar and restaurant in Glenside, was raided Tuesday afternoon by the state's Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, officials said.

About 10 enforcement officers seized all of the liquor from the business at 294 N. Keswick Ave., which was operating with an expired liquor license. The restaurant's license lapsed earlier this year and the business had not been legally permitted to operate since the end of April.

A total of 163 liters of liquor and 332 gallons of beer were confiscated from the business, which has been a staple at the intersection of Keswick Avenue and Easton Road since 1994.

Called the KT for short, the bar is just up the street from the Keswick Theatre, the nearly century-old, Tudor Revival-style venue that has anchored the village in Abington Township since it underwent renovations in the late 1980s.

Attempts to reach the Keswick Tavern for comment on Wednesday were not returned. The restaurant had not shared any updates on its social media pages as of Wednesday afternoon.

BLCE is a division of the Pennsylvania State Police that carries out enforcement for Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. The Keswick Tavern had been warned "several times" that its liquor license was not valid and that it could not sell alcohol until a renewal was completed, BLCE officials said. None of the bar's equipment was taken as part of the raid.

"Because it used to be a licensed spot, we only take the liquor," said Waleska Gonzalez, district office commander of the BLCE's Allentown office. "If it's a speakeasy or someone that's operating without a complete license, or never had a license, we typically take everything. This situation is different. They were operating with an expired license."

For a business to reopen after a license violation, PLCB must reissue operating authority after completing an evaluation. The business is required to file applications and pay fees for renewal and validation. All outstanding tax obligations also must be paid, and the business must pass an inspection for state requirements such as seating, food safety and health permits.

Any fees associated with citations are considered separate from PLCB's reinstatement procedure, since businesses are given due process after enforcement actions like Tuesday's raid. The violation is handled by the state's Office of Administrative Law Judges, an authority independent of PLCB that deals with citations against licensees. The Keswick Tavern could reopen before the case is resolved if it completes reinstatement. The liquor seized from the restaurant will be stored in evidence in the meantime.

Gonzalez did not say how much the KT may need to pay for its citation.

The raid was initially reported by Glenside Local, which said neighbors reported seeing a 6ABC camera crew outside the Keswick Tavern. The report suggested the raid had been carried out by federal authorities, but a regional spokesperson for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Wednesday the federal agency was not involved.

Despite its name, the ATF typically focuses on violent crimes involving firearms and explosives. It also handles some arson cases, including the 2018 fire in Old City that was set by two brothers attempting to commit insurance fraud at their struggling Chestnut Street hookah bar. Historically, the ATF oversaw enforcement against bootlegging and moonshining, but many of those functions are now handled by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the spokesperson said. 

Last week, Abington's board of commissioners voted to create an economic development corporation to support and revitalize the township's business districts. Keswick is among the areas that the new entity may target for investment.

“We have all these studies already available that the township is unable to execute because it’s just not within the traditional purview of a municipality,” board of commissioners vice president Matt Vahey told WHYY. “The Economic Development Corporation will not lack for concepts and ideas because we’ve been looking at this for so long, but we just don’t have the expertise to execute."