PLAINS TWP. — The Woodlands Inn and Resort has won the latest round in its long-simmering battle with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
Nearly six months after the PLCB refused to renew The Woodlands’ liquor license because of a history of violations and police calls, Luzerne County Judge Richard M. Hughes III on Tuesday rebuffed the agency’s arguments, ordering officials to renew the resort’s license.
But with the ruling coming late in the afternoon, neither side had anything to say about its finer points — or what the next step may be for the resort or the PLCB.
Woodlands officials did express pleasure with the outcome, however.
“We are delighted and grateful for Judge Hughes’ decision. This ruling will help The Woodlands Inn continue to create an experience for every guest that delights and amazes,” said a statement issued by the resort, which is owned and operated by members of the Kornfeld family.
The resort was permitted to continue serving alcohol while the appeal was in progress.
State liquor control board spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman said Tuesday afternoon that she had not seen the ruling and could not comment.
Asked what changes have been made or might result from its lengthy tangle with PLCB officials, Woodlands spokesman John Dawe said there would be no further comment Tuesday evening.
“At the advice of counsel, The Woodlands Inn is not able to provide any additional feedback at this time,” Dawe said in an email.
Attorney Richard Bishop, who represented the resort at an appeal hearing before Hughes last summer, also said he had not yet seen the order as of Tuesday night.
What is known is that Hughes disagreed with the PLCB’s assessment of the resort’s efforts to implement corrective measures.
An appeal of the PLCB’s May 1 decision was launched the following day. That led to three days of testimony before Hughes in late July and early August, supplemented by detailed filings from the litigants.
The PLCB claimed the resort failed to comply with an October 2011 conditional licensing agreement, saying the resort had 10 violations of the liquor code dating back to 1987 and 47 alleged incidents and disturbances reported to Plains Township police.
The agreement required the resort to employ at least 14 security officers on Thursday-Saturday nights, maintain 44 inside and outside surveillance cameras and provide adequate lighting for the cameras to record properly, as well as mandating employees to attend gang-awareness training, separate the underage from those who are legally permitted to drink alcohol and enforce a dress code for patrons.
PLCB Michael J. Plank defended the agency’s decision before Hughes, saying the resort was not maintaining adequate lighting conditions, and that testimony from the resort’s own witnesses suggested there are 12 security officers, not 14 as required, working on Thursday nights.
Bishop replied in court papers filed last month that the resort has not been cited since the agreement was put in place in October 2011.
Bishop also countered that the resort has “gone to extreme efforts to provide property security” by employing 18 well-trained security professionals, he wrote, adding that township police Lt. Richard Lussi testified the resort has been very proactive in working to prevent problems.
Tuesday’s ruling was heralded by Plains Township Commissioner Ron Filippini, who sees the resort as a positive force in his community.
“I was happy to hear it. They run a good business,” Filippini said. “They provide quite a lot of jobs for people, and it is important to our tax base.”
Woodlands CEO Gary Kornfeld said during the summer hearings that without the liquor license, the resort would likely close.
While Filippini also hadn’t seen the court’s ruling, he did say there is a perception among some in the community that the PLCB has taken an especially hard line against The Woodlands.
“They were really stacking it up against them, I think,” Filippini said of the PLCB’s actions toward the resort.