Contact Us

Judge Overturns Zoning Permit For Already-Open Center City Dining, Gambling Venue

A giant new tenant on one of Philadelphia's most important retail blocks is somehow fighting for its life over a zoning dispute two months after it opened for business.

The shuttered Boyd Theatre on Chestnut Street in Center City Philadelphia, seen in 2020 before it was redeveloped into a sports bar and restaurant.

Bankroll, a 13K SF sports-gambling themed, multiroom bar and restaurant at 1910 Chestnut St., had its zoning permit revoked last week after Court of Common Pleas Judge Anne Marie Coyle overturned the Zoning Board of Adjustment's approval from January 2022, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

As part of the multiyear process to get the special exemption mandated for bars and restaurants by a Center City zoning overlay, Bankroll's owners and their attorneys had signed a community benefits agreement with Center City Residents Association, the local Registered Community Organization, the Inquirer reports.

The owners of William Penn House, a high-rise co-op across Chestnut Street, appealed the ZBA decision soon after, but the restaurant owners became aware they were in Coyle's crosshairs soon after their highly publicized opening at the beginning of March, the Inquirer reports. 

Coyle's decision was the latest in a growing list of ZBA appeals filed by near neighbors that she has ruled in favor of despite agreements between developers and RCOs. Her decisions have imperiled or killed proposals to preserve public art and build affordable housing in service of what Jon Geeting, engagement director for urbanist advocacy group Philadelphia 3, called reactionary NIMBYism.

“For Bankroll, she called that hearing herself," said Geeting, who is not associated with the project. "She read about it in the newspaper, called a hearing and shot it down herself. Completely unprofessional.”

The bar occupies the building that housed the former Boyd Theatre, empty since 2002, and an adjacent former Gap store, both owned by local developer Pearl Properties, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports. The operators will appeal the decision to Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court.

Bankroll will continue to operate under a new zoning permit that its owners obtained when the company was made aware of its hearing with Coyle, Bankroll CEO Padma Rao said in a statement to the Inquirer.