Firefighters Resign Over Alleged Illegal Bar In Dry Town

COLWYN, Pa. -- State police raided Thursday night what some call an illegal bar in Delaware County.

COLWYN, Pa. -- State police raided Thursday night what some call an illegal bar in Delaware County.

This is a story the NBC 10 Investigators have been following in Colwyn since 2004.

In another major development, all of Colwyn's firefighters have resigned because of the controversy, NBC 10's Lu Ann Cahn reported.If there had been a fire in the borough Thursday night, the Colwyn Fire Co. would not have responded because all 17 volunteer firefighters resigned. They said it's because of a continuing problem with an illegal bar in their firehouse.

Colwyn is a dry town, but NBC 10 was told it was a complaint from the borough that brought out state police there Thursday.

The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement raided the firehouse, confiscating two illegal poker machines, booze and beer. At the same time, all of the volunteer firefighters went before city council to give their resignations.

"Due to an unsafe and unjust environment, we are left with no other choice than to vacate our post and render the fire company out of service," Fire Chief Rich Guerra said.

"Chief, I can tell you that this council supports you and all the firefighters who work on behalf of this community," a borough official replied.

"We don't want to put anybody in danger. But I also, as the fire chief, cannot put any of my guys in danger," Guerra said.

The resigning chief and assistant chief said hardly anything has changed since the NBC 10 Investigators first exposed the bar.

During the report in February 2004, Cahn asked borough officials, "Are you all above the law?"

At that time, an undercover camera captured the mayor, the council president, the borough manager, a council member and the chief of police at the bar.

"Mister solicitor, is this a dry borough?" Cahn asked during the first report.

"We're not going to make any comment," the borough's attorney said.

NBC 10 was told the chief of police has not had a drink there since the first report, but that the new mayor, John Fitzgerald, and councilmen were inside when agents went in Thursday night.

There were no charges Thursday night. State police said the public officials insist they weren't paying for drinks, just making donations.

"It's not a donation, a donation -- I mean, it's they're paying for alcohol at a bar, just like any other bar," Guerra said.

The now former firefighters said the hundred or so social club members also control the $40,000 in fire taxes raised by the borough.

"They go out and buy a 50-inch plasma TV, but we can't get air packs," Assistant Fire Chief Brandon Patterson said.

"Is this an illegal bar?" Cahn asked after Thursday night's raid.

"We were not able to confirm that a speakeasy operation was occurring tonight, but we were able to find some other liquor violations and, as a result, we are taking action on those," Pennsylvania State Police Sgt. William LaTorre said.

The borough now wants to know where all of its tax dollars have been going.

The newly elected council members said they are going to try to work out something with the volunteer firefighters.

In the meantime, NBC 10 was told neighboring fire departments will be covering Colwyn in case of an emergency.

Explore More:
Find out more about Local Politics, Politics, Emergency Services and Police, or try these articles:
July 29, 2008: NBC 10's Edie Huggins Dies At 72
May 14, 2008: Fire Department's 'Private Club' Under Investigation
September 1, 2007: Say Good-Bye To Most Trans Fats In Philly
June 26, 2007: Q&A: Any News On Lady Luck?
May 11, 2007: Mayor Street Loses His Temper On Reporter

Contact Us