City attorneys are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Boxers PHL, a sports bar in the Gayborhood that claims anti-LGBT bias motivated a city order that its roof deck be removed.
Located at 1330 Walnut St., the popular LGBT venue claims it was treated in a homophobic manner by city officials and seeks more than $50,000 in damages. Numerous city officials are named as defendants, including city Department of Licenses and Inspections Commissioner David Perri and various members of the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment.
In January 2015, Boxers sought city approvals for the erection of a roof deck over the rear portion of its first floor. L&I promptly issued a zoning permit and later a building permit for the deck. But in April 2016, L&I revoked all approvals, even though most of the roof deck was constructed, according to the lawsuit.
L&I claimed the zoning permit was incorrectly issued because a formal hearing before the zoning board was required. Boxers eventually appeared before the zoning board, which denied approval for the roof deck in February 2017.
Boxers requested a jury trial but, last month, city attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez to toss out the case as meritless.
In a statement, Mike Dunn, a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney, said the city “vehemently” denies Boxers’ allegations.
“On the contrary, the city welcomes and embraces diversity in businesses, including those serving the LGBT community,” Dunn said, pointing to a section of the city’s filing contending Boxers’ complaint is “void of a single factual allegation which suggests that the city or its zoning board harbor animus against LGBT persons or businesses that serve such persons.”
Wally Zimolong, an attorney for Boxers, scoffed at the city’s dismissal request.
“The city’s motion is a typical response to a suit like this,” Zimolong said in an email. “Instead of admitting mistakes were made and working towards making sure the city is an inclusive place for LGBT-owned business, the city circles the wagons. It is just another example of the city saying one thing regarding the LGBT community and then doing another. Actions speak louder than words.”
Zimolong reiterated Boxers’ position that it was treated unfairly by the city.
“First, city officials revoked the permit. Then, they ordered the deck removed. According to the relevant law, the city only can do that if the deck is a threat to the ‘health, welfare and safety of the community.’ I can only assume the city believes that gay men drinking beer on an outdoor deck in the summer is a big risk to the community.”
As of presstime, the city’s dismissal request remained pending with Sanchez.