Bankroll Sports Bar Remains Open Despite Complaints, Overturned Permit

Written By Corey Sharp on May 8, 2023 - Last Updated on July 12, 2023
Bankroll, the PA sports betting bar in Philadelphia, had its permit overturned by a Commonwealth Court.

Bankroll has found themselves in a legal struggle. The new sports betting bar, located in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, has lost a court case that overturned an approved permit from the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA).

Bankroll has been open since March and will continue to stay open. The bar encourages patrons to bet using Pennsylvania online sportsbooks and offers education on sports betting.

Bankroll loses court case, but can still operate

Bankroll received all of the necessary permits and approvals to operate as a sports betting bar in Center City, Philadelphia.

However, Common Pleas Court Judge Anne Marie Coyle ruled that the ZBA wrongfully approved Bankroll’s permit to operate as a “sit-down restaurant” and overturned the decision.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Coyle wrote:

“The ZBA … inexplicably ignored compelling proof of the negative impact upon the surrounding community that would naturally result from the … operation of Bankroll. The ZBA speciously disregarded evidence … concerning the inescapable reality that the Bankroll proposal was not just for a large eat-in Stephen Starr restaurant.”

Bankroll statement from CEO

In wake of the news, the establishment is still continuing to operate. Bankroll’s CEO Padma Rao commented with the following statement:

“In an unprecedented [and unmerited] action towards a business that’s open and operational, our original zoning permit approved for special exception granted by the ZBA – which allowed use of the property as a sit-down restaurant – was reversed and repealed by the Court of Common Pleas in connection with an appeal. We are currently going through the appeal process and are confident that this decision will be overturned. In the interim we immediately took action and obtained a by-right zoning permit – without any interruption to Bankroll’s operations – that permits us to operate as a sit-down restaurant and accessory assembly & entertainment venue. Since opening our doors in March, we have been thrilled with the positive response and support from customers and the Center City community, and continue to uphold the initial agreement we made with our neighbors to create an upscale viewing and fine dining experience.”

When it successfully received the proper permits from the ZBA, occupants from the William Penn House filed an appeal. The William Penn House, a high-rise housing cooperative tower across the street, had always opposed the Bankroll idea.

Bankroll occupies former Boyd Theater, abandoned since 2002

Bankroll’s location at 1910 Chestnut Street is considered one of the nicest, but busiest sections in Philadelphia. Any “sit-down” restaurant on Chestnut Street must receive special zoning approval because of the high volume traffic on the street.

In Coyle’s overturned decision, she mentioned how the ZBA ignored evidence of worsened traffic and difficulty for emergency vehicles to get through.

The PA sports betting bar is operating in the former Boyd Theater, which has been empty since 2002. It doesn’t seem fair to assume that the theater would be vacant forever. So, if the building would one day be occupied, why is it all of a sudden an issue now?

It appears that Bankroll took all of the steps to open properly. Founder Paul Martino told PlayPennsylvania in March (prior to opening) why the former Boyd Theater became the right venue for Bankroll:

“When we walked into this building with our investors and stakeholders, they saw the old 1920s theater. They thought how cool would it be to restore this to its 1928 grandeur. This is pretty awesome, as opposed to going into a warehouse space and making it cool.”

What does Bankroll Philadelphia offer?

Bankroll is a high-end sports bar that offers food, drink and a luxurious viewing experience for the emotionally invested sports fan. While dining inside Bankroll, the bar encourages customers to bet on the action using the state’s online sportsbooks.

Martino and Rao offer a ticketed entry system for most Philadelphia sports games.

“It’s Super Bowl Sunday, I don’t want to be in a line outside at the local sports bar. I want to know that I’ve got a seat the same way I do if I went to the game,” Martino said in March. “Having this new offering which is ticketed seating for the sports viewing experience, we think we’re on to something pretty big there.”

Bankroll has screens displaying the best PA sportsbook promotions and odds currently available. Bankroll wants to educate its customers on being improved sports bettors, as well.

“It’s all about educating the customer,” Martino said. “Build your bankroll and be a better bettor. That’s what our thinking is.”

Photo by Bankroll Philadelphia
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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp is the Lead Writer at PlayPennsylvania bringing you comprehensive coverage of sports betting and gambling in Pennsylvania. Corey is a 4-for-4 Philly sports fan and previously worked as a writer and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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