Molly's Irish Grille and Sports Pub is located at 4 E. Fourth St., one block away from Lehigh's campus. The bar and restaurant is a popular location for Lehigh students and South Bethlehem residents. (Aliza Lev/B&W Staff)

Liquor license denied for a potential university pub


Lehigh planned to build a pub in the University Center, but the process of getting permission to sell alcohol on campus complicated their plan.

Chris Cook, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Initiatives, said the university was denied a liquor license for the pub.

Bethlehem City Council president Michael Colón said Lehigh originally tried to buy a liquor license in Bethlehem, but none were available. 

According to the Pennsylvania Liquor License Control Board, there is a quota for the number of liquor licenses allowed in the state. The current restrictions allow one retail liquor license per 3,000 residents in any given county in Pennsylvania, and Bethlehem has met its quota. 

Because of this, the university bought one in another city in Northampton County and requested to transfer it to Bethlehem. According to the board, inter-municipal transfers require city council approval and can only take place between cities in the same county. 

The City Council voted 4-1 against Lehigh’s transfer request on Feb. 7.

Cook said the university wants to open a pub on campus to create a unique, casual sit-down dining experience for students and staff and will move forward with the plans even though the transfer was denied. 

“There is often on other campuses a place where people could take a faculty member to lunch and have a chance to get to know that faculty member differently,” Cook said. 

She said they want it to be an alternative location for events like trivia nights.

She said it is too soon to tell how their project will be impacted by the denial of their liquor license transfer.

Colón was the only voting member to approve Lehigh’s request and said, in his eight years of serving on City Council, he has never denied a liquor license to be brought into the city. 

Although this is his first case of a university applying for a liquor license, Colón said he approved Lehigh’s request because he believes the university was taking the right measures to ensure there would be no underage drinking or overserving. 

“This specific application didn’t meet any kind of threshold for me to say it was going to be the first time I was going to deny a request,” Colón said.

Councilwoman Rachel Leon disagreed and was one of the four members who voted against Lehigh’s request.

Leon said if Lehigh had a better track record of being able to manage students and alcohol-related incidents, she may have considered voting in the university’s favor more. 

In 2021, according to the annual security and annual fire safety report, Lehigh reported 250 disciplinary referrals for liquor law violations.

As the only councilmember living on the South Side, Leon also cited concerns about how the neighborhood’s economic development is heavily influenced by its identity as a college town.

“The South Side has been structured around drawing students out of Lehigh and into the small businesses of South Side,” Leon said. “To then put anything in Lehigh that will detract from the businesses that we have already structured to engage with Lehigh students on campus (is) just a reversal of all of the economic developments that we have been told were important.”

Cook said the pub is not meant to discourage students from going off campus, but to offer the community another dining opportunity.

Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.


  1. Wishing the Pennsylvania and Bethlehem governments could be the pallbearers at my funeral

    Just so that can let me down one final time

    Government once again putting its nose where it shouldn’t be

Leave A Reply