The easiest way to be in the know.
It’s Friday, Aug. 25, 2023: In the most shocking health inspection report I’ve seen to date, Split Rail Tavern is closed for cleaning. Plus, a 2018 parking study is serving as a guidebook for changes a look at residents think, West Chester University welcomes its largest freshman class ever, and the Look Around Festival returns for its second year.
I’m going to warn you now. This is a bulky issue, but it’s a good one. So settle in and – let’s catch up.
West Chester Parking, A 2016 Study and the Resident’s Perspective
In 2016, West Chester hired Desman Design Management to develop a Comprehensive Parking Guide. The goal was to “effectively address future parking needs, implement best practices, run a financially sustainable system, and reduce user frustration.”
A lofty goal that resulted in a 79-page report and a few undeniable truths – West Chester issues way more residential permits than it has parking spaces, guest passes are a problem, and parking occupancy in the business district is high but not yet at crisis level, mainly because capacity still exists in the Borough garages and lots.
The report also lists 31 short-term, nine mid-term, and two long-term actions the Borough can take to improve the parking situation. Toward the top of the short-term list is “Eliminate leased parking from the parking lots in the central business district and replace with permit parking.”
According to the report, there are 128 spots reserved in West Chester lots, many of which are not reaching the targeted 85 percent occupancy rate. “There is substantial parking availability during the noon period,” the report states. It is suggested that leased parking be slowly eliminated and these spaces made available to permit parkers instead. Over time and based on demand, the report even suggests transitioning some of the meter spots to permit spaces. A redistribution of parking real estate that seems to make sense based on where shortages currently lie.
“I used to live on the 100 block of S. Walnut and had to park in that lot often, especially in the evenings,” said reader Jen in reference to Lot 5, the Borough parking lot next to the Methodist Church on S. High Street. Currently, the church rents 18 spaces in the lot; another 19 are open to the public at a rate of $1.50/hour. “The reason being that our side of the street had zero off-street parking and our block (and several surrounding it) would fill up with people coming into town for the evening,” she said. This was despite the block being permit parking only.
“I’m not necessarily saying the church shouldn’t have any reserved spots,” she said. “But I’m thinking about how difficult parking was in that area of the Borough for residents. If we’re going to talk about equality in parking, let’s also include in that conversation, how to do that without the residents in that area paying the price for it?” Jen means literally. She and her neighbors were forced to park in the metered spots – and pay the fees.
Similar feedback came from Neil Greene, a 50-year resident of the Borough and permit holder in Lot 6. “We were informed that not only would we be losing 5 spaces to park in the lot, but we also must take part in a so-called lottery.”
Lot 6 has a total of 104 spaces, of which the Borough leases 79 to Chester County. Until this summer, residents could purchase parking permits on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Aug. 1. “When they talk about camping out at Borough Hall in pre-dawn hours, that was us!” Mr. Greene wrote.
The lottery, which will take place on Sept. 1, will help eliminate the lines but it is not clear how it will improve parking efficiency. “[The lottery] will undoubtedly lead to some tax-paying residents losing their ability to park. It is a solution looking for a problem,” Neil wrote.
That feeling of misplaced intentions was shared by resident Joe Baker, who has two children attending the United Methodist’s daycare.
“The Parking Committee also cited “equity” as a basis for its proposed action,” he wrote in a Letter to the Editor published in last week’s Daily Local. “But neither the Parking Director nor the Parking Committee offered a coherent explanation as to why their plan of reallocating the Church’s parking spots to 18 individual recipients via lottery would be more equitable than their current use, which shares them among the hundreds of churchgoers, community group members, and daycare parents who use them daily.”
Not that there isn’t clear evidence that something needs to be done. According to the report, West Chester issues 5,168 permits (2,867 residential permits and 2,302 guest permits), but only has approximately 2,000 permitted spaces. So, the question seems to be not should we do something, but what is the best way to go about it?
“West Chester Borough has always promised its citizens a say in local decisions,” wrote resident Eryn Travis. “However, their proposal to terminate the church’s 20-year parking lease clearly overlooked resident feedback. While I understand that devising parking solutions can be daunting, the council should prioritize the quality of their decisions over the speed of implementation.” Not surprisingly, this was a sentiment repeated by several residents.
Eryn made another good point. “Despite being dated, this approximately 80-page report holds other valuable recommendations,” she wrote.
A fitting summary. While the process certainly needs work, there is real opportunity outlined in the report and it is nice to see someone is at least taking a look.
Read the full report here.
(For clarity the study began in 2016, the report came in 2018. One can assume the counts were taken somewhere in between there.)
Closed for Cleaning: Split Rail Tavern Shut Down by the Health Department
This week the West Chester Health Department forced the closure of the Split Rail Tavern. A cease and desist order was issued after 32 health violations were found during a routine inspection. I did not get a response from anyone at the restaurant but the health department issued the following statement.
“On Tuesday, August 22, following a thorough inspection, the Chester County Health Department closed the Split Rail Tavern in West Chester, due to a number of identified health violations. The owner of the Split Rail Tavern is working to address those violations, and until the violations are resolved and the Health Department inspection confirms this, the restaurant will remain closed.”
According to the Health Department’s spokesperson at this time, no food-borne illnesses have been reported or complaints made in connection with the restaurant. Even still, you may want to hold off reading this item until after lunch.
Employees reusing gloves, food stored in single-use containers, food stored directly on the floor, food stored with no covers, kitchen cleaning cloths wet with no sanitizer, a paper towel holder with no paper towels, a handwash sink with no soap, food utensils put away with food residue still on them, a dishwasher not properly sanitizing, a dishwasher that is leaking, a pile of trash found outside, and no shocker here, no one in charge with adequate food safety knowledge.
During the visit chicken was discarded after it was found to be sitting on a counter all morning unrefrigerated, a bottle of vodka was tossed after a fly was found in it, and so were some in-house sauces that were stored three weeks past their expiration date.
There was also a litany of cleaning tasks from the floors to the walls to the ceilings. All appliances needed cleaning including the walk-in refrigerator, keg coolers, hand sinks, bar freezer, three-compartment sinks, exhaust fans, ovens, and dishwashers. Also included were the wire shelving, the second-floor wait station, and all booths.
And the granddaddy of them all – and I quote, “Live adult and juvenile cockroaches were found throughout the kitchen area on food preparation tables, on the walls, near the sinks, in between equipment, and in the hand sinks. Adult and juvenile cockroaches were found in cracks in the walls and in the booths in the dining room.” Ew.
You can read the full report on the State Inspection website just search by name.
There’s no commUNITY in that. West Chester police are seeking community assistance in identifying two young men wanted for the theft of two bicycles from the Melton Center. The bikes were taken around midday on Tuesday, Aug. 8. If you know these individuals or have any information about the incident contact Officer Graham of the West Chester PD.
Speaking of taking things not belonging to you, Westtown-East Goshen Police are looking for a Mr. Cody Steven King of Wilmington, DE. Mr. King is wanted in connection to the theft of roughly $400 worth of goods from CVS at 1351 Wilmington Pike. If you know where to find him, drop Detective Diamond a line and let him know.
Get those pups (properly) tagged. This week West Chester Police found and fortunately reunited three lost dogs with their owners. If you have a pet make sure they are microchipped and registered. More information on how to do that here.
Please use caution. West Chester University move-in is happening this week and while the bulk of incoming freshmen should now be getting settled, upperclassmen are still expected. Even mid-week I noticed an uptick in activity around campus and downtown. “Please use caution if traveling around the university the next few days as there will be increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic,” WCPD warned on their social channels.
This is for your own good. This week Judge Patrick Carmody ordered West Chester native and former Jackass star Bam Margera to wear an alcohol-detecting bracelet and attend AA meetings for the next 30 days. Bam is back in the county awaiting trial on assault charges.
High fives to West Chester University on enrolling the largest first-year class in its 252-year history. This week it also successfully (or at least nothing was called out by Barstool) settled and unpacked 3,030 first-year students. TBD what effect this will have on the already tight housing and parking situation but, for now anyway, welcome.
In that spirit, West Chester Community Campus Committee is hosting a “Welcome to the Borough” event from noon to 3 p.m. today at the Courthouse. New students will be able to sign up for volunteer opportunities with local non-profits, snack on free Rita’s water ice, and grab exclusive student discounts to freshman faves – Saloon 151, Mayday Coffee, and Tish Boutique.
Also, a round of applause to West Chester Henderson students Aviana Tida Poy and Preston Lubeski winners of this year’s West Chester Vietnam Memorial Scholarship. Both students had to share stories of courage, determination, selflessness, and service by those in their lives. Aviana wrote of her father, a Staff Sergeant who fueled her passion for government. Preston told the story of his grandfather, a medic who served in the Vietnam War.
And while we’re at the schools, high fives to Kyle Forsyth, the new assistant principal at Stetson Middle School. Born and raised in West Chester, Mr. Forsyth recently returned to the area from Denver, CO where he served as a middle school teacher and administrator.
And, finally this week, a couple of (sort of) celebrity news shout-outs.
- Kudos to QVC. West Chester’s oft-mocked TV retailer served as the backdrop and hero of a recent episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars. On the show, contestants compete for a $250,000 start-up investment from the celebrity chef. In this particular episode, you guessed it, the budding food entrepreneurs were asked to sell their wares on QVC.
- Roses to WCU grad Joey Graziadei on being named the next Bachelor.
A welcome back this week to the Look Around Festival which is returning to the grounds of the Moose Lodge on W. Washington this Saturday for its second year. Ahead of the big day, I caught up with festival founder and local musician Nikki DiGiorgio.
Q. You are back for a second year – I guess that means the first year was a success?
A. Oh man… I would say so! I would have felt like I won the golden ticket if 400 people showed up last year… Instead, we estimated 1.2k people throughout the day.
Q. Anything new planned for this year?
A. Tons. We have art installations… some that festival goers can even interact with. We have upped production on all fronts— stage, layout, decorations, and that is solely due to our wrecking crew. I love you Look Around family! And Rob [Perna]… my rock and Co-Producer.
Q. Any lessons learned after the first year’s Festival?
A. There is even more of a demand for this festival than I thought there was. The streets are electric right now. There is a current surging through West Chester that seems familiar but is new territory. Lessons I’m taking into this year are, to do exactly what we did last year, and never stray from the mission: to provide underrepresented, local creatives a platform to share their art by throwing unique events.
Q. You seemingly have a lot going on already. Why add “throw music festival” to your list of things to do? What do you hope people will get out of it?
A. Cara — I love your style, I really do. You crack me up. It made me think though… and the only answer I can come up with, is, because I have to. It definitely stems from a personal desire to be seen and heard, but more importantly, received and held. I can imagine other people feel that way… especially creatives. As far as what I hope people get out of it – I hope they find a sense of belonging. I believe we heal in community. There’s so much static in the world, so many masks that we wear… I hope people feel relieved and renewed. Just come be yourself. That’s what we will all be doing!
The Look Around Festival runs from 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. In addition to an art and vendor fair, more than a dozen local bands are scheduled to perform. Get your tickets here or at the door.
Also, this week a couple of retail hellos:
- The Basement at Santinos, located under Satinos Tap & Table on Market Street, is revamped and re-opened. In a post this week they promised, “You’re going to love it.” If you want to check it out, the bar opens at 5 p.m. Shot pitchers are $10 – all day every day. Which I think pretty much sums it up.
- Shopping in Bradford Plaza is about to get a little sweeter. The Downingtown Pike retail hub is adding Bert’s Homemade Cream, a family-owned Italian ice and ice cream parlor, to a line-up that already includes Giant, Walgreens, Monkey Fish Toys, Dollar Tree, and Brother’s Pizza.
- Twin Valley Coffee is opening on Monday at the Church Street Market House on N. Church Street. According to their Instagram account, “After you have had your first cup of Twin Valley Coffee you will be ruined for the ordinary! Average coffee is no longer acceptable.” I don’t know about you but I’m ready to be ruined.
And finally, hello, old friend…
This week the West Chester Board of Directors voted, 7-0, (members Joyce Chester and Stacey Whomsley were not present) to deny the Valley Forge Classical Academy’s charter school application. While no reason for the decision was cited by any member, the vote was not a surprise – nor is this the end of the discussion.
“As expected, the WCASD Board of Directors denied the charter school application,” VFCA wrote on their Facebook page. “The vote tonight strengthens our resolve to move forward with our appeal to the State Charter Appeals Board. The first step is to gather 1200 or more signatures from district residents in support of parental and school choice.”
Speaking of out at the school district, it appears Substitute Superintendent Dr. Kalia Reynolds’ time as top leader may soon be over – unless, twist, she is one of the finalists? In an update on the superintendent search provided this week, the West Chester Area School Board shared it has completed first-round interviews with eight selected candidates and has now narrowed the pool to two. A final decision is still planned for September.
“We are currently on schedule to have all interviews completed by the end of the month and to have a final candidate for approval as our next Superintendent in September,” the Directors wrote in an email.
Which all means – goodbye summer and hello, new morning routines, buses on your morning commute, and students at your favorite bar. That’s right, school starts Monday for WCASD and WCU students and Tuesday for Chesterbrook Academy. St. Agnes, St. Max, and Westtown students have a little longer to wait. They don’t start back until after Labor Day.
In the case of St. Agnes, those few extra days will come in handy. The Gay Street school has completely renovated Kelly Hall, home to its sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.
“We can’t wait for our students and their families to see the newly renovated building which has been done to meet our middle schoolers’ needs,” shared Jenifer Nevins, St. Agnes Advancement Director.
A Ribbon Cutting is scheduled for the first day of school – Tuesday, September 5, at 9:15 a.m.
Pay it forward.
The Domestic Violence Center of Chester County has been in operation since 1976. Since that time they have been on the frontlines of domestic violence in the county. They operate a 24-hour crisis hotline. They connect people with emergency safe housing (that they maintain). They staff lawyers who help with legal solutions, and counselors who work to help individuals and families piece their lives back together.
They have children’s services, homework help, activities, and education classes including one on recognizing teen dating abuse, an evidence-based curriculum taught by local coaches to their players.
“In 2022-2023, these programs reached more teens than ever before with 2,759 teens engaging in our educational programming,” shared Amelia Rayburn-Pizzica, DVCCC Director of Education Programs.
Think it can’t happen to your kid? Think again. “Of that group, 27% reported experiencing abuse from a dating partner and 62% reported knowing a friend or family member who has,” she reported.
Next week the DVCCC is hosting a powerful talk with domestic violence survivor and new West Chester resident Alisa Mathewson. It is part of their Hope & Healing Series.
After graduating from Garnet Valley, Alisa married her high school sweetheart and moved to Florida. Together they had five children but over the years her husband quietly became more and more controlling.
“Domestic Violence isn’t always bruises and black eyes,” said Dr. Dolly Wideman-Scott, DVCCC CEO. “Trevor is a very charming man. He charmed the courts.”
It wasn’t until he broke into her home, kidnapped her, and tortured her for 55 hours that the courts and the legal system intervened. Alisa shared her story in a 48 Hours episode in April and she will share it again at a very special presentation here on Sept 7 at 9 a.m.
“It’s a very eye-opening presentation,” said Kathleen Purcell, DVCCC Director of Philanthropic Partnerships. “I think it will give women permission to come forward.”
Last year, 2,817 people called the Domestic Violence hotline in Chester County. At the same time, the DVCCC saw its largest number of individuals housed in emergency shelters – 1,726 adults and children accessed DVCC’s lifesaving services. “One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence,” said Dolly. “That individual may not know. We may not know, but if we know the signs we can help.”
If you would like to attend the event you can register here. You can also help by volunteering or making a monetary donation and if you know someone trapped in a difficult situation, Dolly offers this advice.
“Be supportive. Don’t judge them for staying in the situation, and provide them with access to the Domestic Center’s hotline.” That number is 610-431-1430 for anyone who needs it.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? In a sure sign summer is coming to an end, we have a packed weekend. On Saturday we are heading over to the Henderson soccer stadium to catch the boys play in one of two opening weekend matches. This will be our first game and the boys are super excited. We also have a couple of birthdays to celebrate including for this little sasafras. Hard to believe she is six.
If you are around this weekend, East Goshen is hosting its rescheduled Community Day on Saturday. There will be moon bounces, pony rides, food trucks, face painting, live music, and of course fireworks!! Highland Orchard has a sale on freshly picked, crisp sweet-tart Ginger Gold apples – ½ bushel for $15. And Uptown is giving live theatrical performances another try with Nunsense, showing all weekend.
And don’t forget next Friday is the last First Friday of the summer. ACEZ will be playing live and the Church Street Gallery is hosting an opening cocktail reception for artist Tara Will. It’s their first solo exhibition of the fall.
And this week a very special thank you to the West Chester Public Library for joining Hello, West Chester as our newest Community Sponsor. This sponsor is near and dear to my heart. We’ve been frequent visitors and loyal fans of the library since the day I brought my eldest to his first story time with Ms. Meg. If you have not had a chance to visit, the location is amazing, the staff is great, and the inter-library loan system is very convenient. Check out their website for the latest events and updates.
West Chester Public Library
WCPL has served our community continuously for 150 years! It started with just books. Today you’ll find so much more: programs, cake pans, hotspots to rent, free Wi-Fi, STEM Kits, printing/scanning, ebooks & audiobooks, and of course bestsellers and classics.
View a list of all our amazing Community Sponsors here. Want to get your business out in front of this wonderful community? I don’t blame you. Fall ad spaces are now open! It’s a great – and cost effective way – to get your name in front of a highly engaged West Chester audience. Send me an email if you are interested – but hurry, spaces are filling up fast!
Readers, like knowing what’s happening in and around town? Same! But this thing is a beast. Plus, more readers, more expenses, but that’s ok. I did the math. I figure if all regular readers contribute just $10 a year – we can keep the updates coming and the ads limited! Help keep readers first with a small donation below.
Mark your calendars:
- Aug. 25 -27 – Nunsense, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. There is also a 2 p.m. performance on Saturday and a 3 p.m. performance on Sunday. Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center and Revival Productions present this zany and wholesome musical comedy about a convent of nuns staging a fundraiser to help them bury the last four nuns of their order. Tickets $37 – 45. There is price tiered seating for this event. Prices increase at the door.
- Aug. 26 – West Chester Grower’s Market, 201 N. Church St. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Local seasonal produce and craft goodies. Open sun or rain! Just don’t forget to bring your bags!
- Aug. 26 – Look Around Music & Arts Festival, Moose Lodge – 401 W. Washington St, 12 p.m. – 3 a.m. Enjoy a full day of music, vendors, food trucks, art, culture and a cash prize costume contest.
- Aug. 26 – East Goshen Community Day (RESCHEDULED), East Goshen Park, 4:30- 8 p.m. Enjoy live music, food trucks, children activities and the best fireworks in Chester County. (Their words).
- Aug. 28 -Back to School, everybody! Aug. 28 marks the first day of class for WCU and the first day of school for WCASD.
- Aug. 28 – $5 Movie Night: The Endless Summer, Uptown Theater, 7:00 p.m. Free popcorn included with the price of admission!
- Aug. 29 – A Novel Tea with Pam Jenoff, this is a virtual event, 7:00 p.m. New York Times Bestselling Author and local Philadelphia native Pam Jenoff will be discussing her latest novel, Code Name Sapphire, released in February 2023. This is Chester County Library Fundraiser event. Tickets are $35 and proceeds go to the Chester County library of your choice (West Chester, hint, hint).
- Sept. 1 – First Friday, Downtown West Chester, starts at 5 p.m. Free concert by ACEZ on the courthouse steps. Free on-street parking.
- Sept. 2 – West Chester Grower’s Market, 201 N. Church St. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Local seasonal produce and craft goodies. Open sun or rain! Just don’t forget to bring your bags!
- Sept. 4 – $5 Movie Night: The Avengers, Uptown Theater, 7:00 p.m. Free popcorn included with the price of admission!
- Sept. 7 –Breakfast with Alisa Mathewson – A hope and healing series event; Westminster Presbyterian Church, 9 a.m. This DVCCC event is an opportunity to hear an incredible story of survival and learn about the complexities of domestic violence. Alisa’s story will inspire attendees to find the courage to break free from abuse and lead fulfilling lives. Breakfast will be served, and there will be a chance to meet Alisa and the DVCCC team. Tickets: $25/adult; $15/student
- Sept. 9 – West Chester Grower’s Market, 201 N. Church St. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Local seasonal produce and craft goodies. Open sun or rain! Just don’t forget to bring your bags!
- Sept. 9 – Yoga in the Street, Gay Street (near the Post Office), 9 – 10 a.m. No registration required. Just bring a mat and $5 entrance fee (cash only!)
Psst. Like to plan ahead? Stay tuned for the new Fall Event Guide full of photos and videos from West Chester’s favorite fall events or visit the Calendar page for events through October!
Ok, that is all. Note there will be no Roundup next week – so I wish everyone a safe, relaxing, Labor Day weekend and I’ll see you in two!
New to Hello, West Chester? Subscribe for the latest news and events!