Culinary etiquette program teaches confidence, professionalism

A culinary student etiquette program recently took place at the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center. At 60 stories, the four-star luxury hotel is noteworthy for its expansive views of the city. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

The growth of restaurants and dining out may be on hold because of COVID-19, but the need for young people schooled in the etiquette of dining, particularly at high-end establishments, remains.

When restaurants reopen, some hospitality professionals believe a culinary etiquette program could become popular with newbies to the dining scene. It’s a tool, they say, that is helpful whether one is looking to build a career in the food service industry, or simply gain an edge in the business world where many important meetings take place over a meal.

The idea for a culinary student etiquette program came from a member of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, said Ben Fileccia, director of operations and strategy for the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the PRLA, a nonprofit based in Harrisburg.

He held onto that idea and decided to make a go of it, launching the association’s first etiquette program in Philadelphia. Now, he plans to bring it into the Lehigh Valley.

And they’ll learn over lunch, with help from restaurant owners, schools and the association.

“We realized that, yes, there’s a need when you realize a lot of professional interviews happen over lunch or a college prep meeting could take place at dinner,” Fileccia said. “Even though we are at a time when we want people to express themselves, there are some times where you are judged based on how you look and professional settings are those times.”

Fileccia applied for a grant that would allow him to expand a program that highlights the hospitality industry and possibly attracts young people to the field.

Philadelphia’s etiquette program is a pillar of the Kitchen Cabinet program, said Lindsey Miller, manager of grassroots advocacy for the National Restaurant Association. Kitchen Cabinet is made up of restaurant operators, employees and supporters committed to growing and preserving opportunity in the restaurant industry, she said.

“We work closely with nonprofit organizations and government officials to ensure that restaurants remain a strong cornerstone in our economy and continue to create opportunities for all Americans,” she said.

Once the PRLA received the grant, Fileccia contacted officials at the Philadelphia School District to gauge their interest and they jumped at the chance.

PRLA gave all the students business cards and engraved metal business card holders to create a sense of professionalism. Then, with the school district, he coordinated a lunch with the owner of Star Restaurants for the program’s first event at The Love, a restaurant in Philadelphia.

Fileccia said the cost is between $120 and $200 per student, per luncheon, with the PRLA picking up the tab, including travel expenses. The PRLA can achieve that through a grant from the National Restaurant Association, he added.

The cost fluctuates depending on the lunch location. The program teaches participants a variety of skills, from proper utensil placement and use, to what to do with linen napkins when getting up from the table.

The program also helps build skills on when to use direct eye contact and how to show respect for the servers, other diners, and the food itself, he added. The school district chooses the students, and they’ve sent a full class of culinary students each time.

The second program took place at the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center.

At 60 stories, the four-star luxury hotel is noteworthy for its glass elevator.

“It’s important for me to show the different areas where the industry can take you,” Fileccia said. “Hopefully, in the fall, the restaurants will be re-launched again and I can really kick it off in the Lehigh Valley.”

These culinary etiquette lunch programs could be done anywhere, Miller said.

“I think, once we know when people can go out to eat, we certainly would like to do more of them,” Miller said. “They are easy to replicate in other markets.”

One of the biggest benefits for students going into etiquette lunches is the experience of going out to eat, and learning how to be comfortable in diverse settings. Both build confidence, she said.

The program can also show students learning how to interact in a networking event, which can be helpful in securing a job, she said.


Local payment processor seeks to raise $200M for hospitality industry

With restaurants and other hospitality businesses facing some of the earliest and largest financial losses from COVID-19, one local company established an online resource to help raise more than $200 million for them.

Shift4 Payments, an integrated payment processing solutions company in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, launched Shift4Cares.com, an online resource for government agencies, news outlets and businesses affected by COVID-19. The website offers information on the economic impact of this pandemic and is part of Shift4’s plan to raise more than $200 million nationwide for restaurants and other small businesses — including up to $10 million contributed directly from the company through a gift card initiative.

The states leading the hospitality transaction declines in the wake of COVID-19 are California (91%), Pennsylvania (89%), Texas (89%) and New York (88%). Shift4 Payments, a local company, is working to raise more than $200 million nationwide for restaurants and other small businesses. (PHOTO/SUBMITTED)

Consumers can go to Shift4Cares.com to buy gift cards for their favorite local restaurants and other businesses to provide their favorite establishments with much needed revenue during this difficult time, said Terry Sullivan, chief of staff for Shift4 Payments. For every gift card purchased through the site, Shift4 Payments will contribute an additional 5% to the business — up to $10 million. For example, a $100 gift card purchase on the site would result in $105 for the merchant.

“We are doing what we can to raise awareness,” Sullivan said. “We specialize in hospitality, which is really restaurants and hotels. The pandemic is really having an impact. We are seeing a tremendous decline in payment volumes.”

While the impact is national, Pennsylvania is among those hardest hit.

The states leading the declines are California (91%), Pennsylvania (89%), Texas (89%) and New York (88%). Nationally, restaurant transactions declined from 42 million to 11 million during this time, while hotel transactions declined from 144 million to 20 million.

Data on the site for the last seven days shows that hospitality industry transactions are down significantly when compared to the week of Feb. 2, with restaurant transactions down 74%, hotels down 86% and all other industries down 64%.

Nationwide and state-by-state data is available at Shift4Cares.com.

“We’ve been going through this data and we are seeing how substantial that is,” Sullivan said. “This is just a way to help our customers, our businesses across the country to get much-needed revenue.”

Shift4 Payments also waived many processing fees for its clients, including the fee for the device used for curbside delivery and online orders, he said.

Shift4 processes more than 3.5 billion transactions annually for more than 200,000 businesses nationwide, representing more than $200 billion in payments each year.


COVID-19 ends LVIA’s 30-month growth pattern

Lehigh Valley International Airport is implementing social distancing practices at its TSA terminal. (PHOTO/SUBMITTED) –

Lehigh Valley International Airport was on a path to potentially see more than a million passengers this year.

Then, COVID-19 arrived.

The rapidly changing and spreading virus upended nearly 30 consecutive months of positive passenger traffic and put a financial strain on the airport as it continues operating and providing services.

“There is going to be a significant financial impact to ourselves, all airports across the country, all carriers,” said Thomas Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority. “Six months ago, we had pilot shortages, now passenger shortages.”

He declined to provide any financial indication of how much of an impact the virus has had so far on the airport’s operations.

The only pay reductions the airport is putting in place right now are from directors and senior managers. A dozen employees volunteered to take a 10% pay cut, but no layoffs are planned, he said.

The airport’s cargo operations remain active.

“We are still getting air cargo coming and going,” Stoudt said. “I’m sure there’s significant demand for packages.”

For airline carriers, the demand has just evaporated, Stoudt said.

One of LIVA’s four carriers, Allegiant Air, has cut about 15% of its capacity for April and May at the airports it serves, but more reductions will come and the cancellations are occurring across its network, said Sonya Pagdett, spokesperson for Allegiant Air, in a statement.

It was only a month ago that the Airport celebrated the arrival of Allegiant Air’s $50 million aircraft base, which brought new routes for air travelers and more than 60 employees.

Allegiant’s investment came at a time of continued strong growth in economic activity at the Hanover Township, Lehigh County-based airport, which has seen month after month of increased passenger traffic and officials sharing hopes of getting more than a million passengers traveling through the airport this year.

Now, Allegiant’s planning team is consolidating demand by cutting flights where it has other capacity for passengers to be re-accommodated easily, Pagdett said. As an example, that could apply to routes Allegiant offers multiple times per day or week. However, that will not always be possible moving forward, she said.

If Allegiant cancels flights, she said the carrier would notify customers directly and provide options.

On March 23, LVIA had 100 passengers going through the checkpoint. Typically, the airport gets 1,500 to 1,600 passengers per day, Stoudt said.

Before March, the airport had 29 consecutive months of passenger growth, said Colin Riccobon, spokesperson for the LNAA.

“It may be temporary,” Riccobon said. “It’s still going to be a road to recovery and it’s going to take some time and patience.”

Flights are still running with many vacant seats on board, but all of the airport’s food and concession services are very limited, he said. Furthermore, Trans-Bridge stopped its bus operations, which means service to the airport stopped as well.

About four years ago, the airport authority was struggling to stay afloat financially and has since rebounded through a number of initiatives. Those gains have left the airport authority in a better position to weather this crisis, Stoudt said.

Although the airport now has about 100 passengers coming a day, it has increased its cleaning and sanitizing practices and these costs have risen in some cases, Stoudt said.

“We are doing our part to make sure we are protecting people,” Stoudt said.








Citing coronavirus concerns, Camelback Mountain Resort announces closure

Camelback Resort announced it would close its entire resort, starting Tuesday. The Pocono Mountains resort, which includes the Aquatopia indoor water park, will reopen April 2. (PHOTO/SUBMITTED)

Camelback Mountain Resort in Tannersville is among the first of the region’s resorts that announced a closure today because of the coronavirus.

The company said it would temporarily close the entire resort, starting 4 p.m. Tuesday and reopen April 2.

“Your safety and health is our primary focus and we continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation and follow the CDC and U.S. public health recommendations as they evolve,” said Shawn Hauver, president and managing director of Camelback Resort, in a letter. This temporary closure will encompass all operations including the Ski Mountain and Snowtubing Park, Hauver said.

Hauver said there have been no cases of COVID-19 at Camelback Resort, however with recent focus from federal and state government officials on restricting large gatherings the company believes it is in the best interest of its guests and team members to temporarily
close the resort.

“Our thoughts are with those families who have been affected during this trying time, and we will continue to send positive thoughts to you all.”

The resort is taking extensive steps to care for its team members during the temporary closure with working hours where possible, company-sponsored time off for many team members and other measures, Hauver said.

“Their commitment to our company and guests during this uncertain time has been unwavering.”

During this temporary closure, the resort will continue efforts to provide a clean and safe environment for its team members who are working, Hauver said.

“We had some warm temperatures so fortunately, our season was winding down,” said A.J. Stack, director of marketing for Camelback. “For every business, it’s going to make a huge impact. We decided as a company to close everything for two weeks because it was the right thing to do. We all need to do our part and stop the spread of the virus.”

The resort will refund any room reservations and guests can re-book at a later date.

“It’s going to have a huge impact on every business across the world so we are all feeling the effects,” Stack said.

Gary Kline, director of marketing at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Longswamp Township, said the company does not have official word yet that it would close because of the coronavirus.

The resort closed for skiing for the rest of the season, he said.

Meanwhile, Blue Mountain Resort in Lower Towamensing Township, Carbon County, has closed for the ski season.

“Typically, we only make it to the third week in March,” said Ashley Seier, director of marketing at Blue Mountain. “We close because of the weather.”

The resort’s restaurant, the Slopeside Pub & Grill, will stay open Friday through Sunday and will expand its to-go ordering service, she said.

“We’ve taken extra precautions on seating the restaurant at 50% capacity,” she said. In addition, the staff cleans and sanitizes menus.

During this part of the season, the only venue open at Blue Mountain is the restaurant, so for now, it’s business as usual, she said.

In May, the resort opens for its “green” season, which includes outdoor activities that run from May through October.

Over the winter season, Blue Mountain employs about 1,300 employees and during its green season, about 250, Seier said.

The resort has some weddings and events scheduled later in the season, but those are still on for now.

“We have had some people call, as of right now, we are complying with CDC recommendations,” she said.

However, the resort had to cancel its Pondskim event, an annual “end of ski” season celebration that was scheduled for Sunday because of the virus.

This story will be updated.

Allegiant will offer flights from LVIA to Chicago starting in May

As Allegiant Travel Co. prepares to open its aircraft base at Lehigh Valley International Airport next month, the company has started branching out to offer new routes for travelers. (Submitted) –

As Allegiant Travel Co. prepares to open its aircraft base at Lehigh Valley International Airport next month, the company is branching out to offer new routes for travelers.

Today, the Las Vegas-based company said it will offer service to Chicago Midway International Airport from LVIA starting May 14.

LVIA, based in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, already announced three new destinations last year and officials see this newest offering as an effective way to increase travel options.

“This announcement is a clear demonstration that Allegiant’s decision to bring their 18th aircraft crew base to the Lehigh Valley in February 2020 will bolster air travel options for everyone in the region,” said Thomas Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, in a statement.

He described Midway as a popular landing spot for business or leisure travelers and one which also can be an additional connection point to anywhere in the world.

“We are counting down the days to welcome home these critical Allegiant staff members into your neighborhood airport,” Stoudt said. “Passenger demand has grown consistently year after year. The arrival of locally-based crews brings an exciting element to this partnership’s continued success.”

From LVIA, Allegiant already offers non-stop flights to Clearwater/St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale, Myrtle Beach, Nashville, Punta Gorda, Orlando/Sanford, Sarasota/Bradenton and Savannah/Hilton Head.

In August Allegiant announced a $50 million investment to establish its new base of operations, which will house two Airbus aircraft and operational/airline services, with base operations set to begin on Feb. 12.

Colin Riccobon, spokesperson for LNAA, said LVIA already offers service to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago but this Midway route will be a new avenue of service for the company.

In a news release about its 44 new routes, which include the LVIA Midway route, Allegiant said it is the largest expansion in Allegiant’s history. Most of Allegiant’s 44 new routes are non-competitive, with no other airline providing service between those airports, the company said.


Airport authority approves $49.1M capital improvement program

The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority plans to build a $22 million security checkpoint and terminal connector at LVIA in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, expected to be complete in 2022. (Submitted) –

With an eye on reinvesting in its infrastructure and expanding services, the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority board of governors approved a $36.7 million operating budget for all three of its aviation facilities, plus a nearly $49.1 million capital improvement program for 2020.

The operating budget and capital improvements cover Lehigh Valley International Airport, Queen City Airport and Braden Airpark. The operating budget showed a $3 million increase over last year, while the capital improvement program showed a $7.4 million increase. In comparison, last year, the board approved a $33.7 million operating budget and $41.7 million capital improvement program, airport officials said.

The investment is a good reflection of the region and the economy, airport officials said, noting that large-scale infrastructure projects are job creators, often for companies in the Lehigh Valley.

In October, the authority announced plans to build a $22 million security checkpoint and terminal connector at LVIA in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, expected to be complete in 2022. The project would eliminate multiple vertical transitions for passengers and streamline traffic flow. In addition, it would add two additional Transportation Security Administration screening lanes.

“If you really dissect the numbers, the airport authority’s core business of airfield and facility management is driving the revenue increases for 2020,” said Todd Quann, director of finance and administration at LNAA, in a news release. “Twenty five consecutive months of passenger traffic increases, additional flights/destinations has resulted in more people using the facility.”

Since 2015, the airport authority self-funded about $38 million in the capital improvement program. For 2020, it has earmarked $17.7 million for projects.

At LVIA, these projects include Runway 6/24 rehabilitation; phase one of the TSA Security Checkpoint connector design and construction, and the main terminal parking lot rehabilitation.

At Queen City Airport, the projects include updating the master plan and removing obstructions.

In addition, at Braden Airpark, the authority is planning for phase two construction of a new terminal building.

The funds in the capital improvement program also include grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration and PennDOT Bureau of Aviation.

The board approved the 2020 budget at its monthly meeting on Nov. 26 at Lehigh Valley Hospital- Muhlenberg.


United Airlines launches its newest regional plane at LVIA

United Airlines debuted its newest regional plane at LVIA and Harrisburg International airports. (Submitted) –

United Airlines introduced its newest regional plane as part of a national tour last week, offering travelers flying out of Lehigh Valley and Harrisburg International airports the opportunity to travel first-class on short regional trips.

During a stop at Harrisburg last week, United executives highlighted the features of the CRJ-550, a 50-seat, two-cabin aircraft, according to a news release.

United developed the regional plane with business customers in mind, many of whom travel between airports like Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, and United’s hub in Chicago.

The plane offers economy class seating in addition to economy, economy-plus and first-class seating. The planes have 20 seats in economy class, 20 in economy-plus and 10 in first-class.

The cabin offers more legroom, space for roller bags and a self-serve refreshment center for first-class passengers.

“Having this aircraft serving business travelers in the Lehigh Valley certainly enhances the customer experience at ABE [Allentown Bethlehem Easton airport] and makes our airport an attractive option for flights to Chicago,” said Thomas Stoudt, executive director of Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority. “You typically hear about aircraft leg room and comfort shrinking on passengers, but United has reversed that trend by transforming a 70-seat regional jet to 50 seats which creates a very comfortable cabin for everyone.”

United began offering the service on Oct. 27 and will continue to expand the service as it brings additional CRJ-550 aircraft into its fleet, said United officials.


LVIA embarks on $22M plan for streamlined passenger traffic flow

The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority announced a $22 million expansion project that includes building an elevated walkway at Lehigh Valley International Airport. (Submitted) –

As passenger traffic increases at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, so too does the amount of people moving through the airport for departures and arrivals.

Moreover, the airport authority is realizing that its facility for handling all those people is outdated, which prompted them to plan for infrastructure improvements in the main terminal to accommodate more people.

At its October board of governors meeting, the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority introduced and discussed a concept plan that focuses on increasing capacity at its Transportation Security Administration Checkpoint and making changes for passenger flow to reduce the need for passengers to go up and down the elevators and escalators to get to their destination.

These upgrades could cost about $22 million, said Thomas Stoudt, executive director of LNAA.

“We are already programming money into the 2020 capital budget to advance the design work, we’ve already been moving on this project,” Stoudt said. “It helps us have those conversations about funding; we are working on meeting with our elected officials.”
Right now, the airport authority is looking at grant opportunities and potential state or federal funds for the project.

Twenty-four consecutive months of positive passenger traffic growth is part of what led to the need for the project, according to Stoudt. Furthermore, information from the airport authority’s master plan reinforced the notion that traffic would significantly increase in the coming years.

In addition, with passenger growth happening faster than the authority’s projections, the infrastructure improvements have a heightened priority, he added.

In the underground tunnel beneath the main terminal, the airport has no more room to expand for additional TSA checkpoint lanes, he said. By increasing the capacity from two processing lanes to four, that would streamline the process and help keep up with demand.

The airport authority hired Airport Design Consultants of Philadelphia to design the concept plan.

This concept design would create a connector that would lift the departing passenger area above ground and place it level with the Wiley Departure Concourse, said Cedrick Johnson, president of Airport Design Consultants of Philadelphia. Outbound passengers would go through the connector and inbound passengers would go beneath.

In addition, TSA is developing new technology and requires space for new equipment, he added.

“The technology continues to evolve and we want to make sure we can keep up with that,” Stoudt said.

The increase in passenger traffic also provides additional revenue to the airport, which it could apply to the project, Johnson said.

According to Stoudt, about 690,000 passengers used the airport from January to September. In all of 2017, it was that same number. The airport authority could use that revenue to fund projects such as this.

With two lanes, the TSA checkpoint processes up to 150 people per lane, per hour. With four lanes, TSA could process up to 180 people per lane, per hour, Johnson said. That means TSA could process a 720 people total per hour, per lane as opposed to 300, which it handles today.

Stoudt said Allegiant Air’s recent announcement to build an aircraft base at LVIA, which would open in February 2020, also prompted the need for a plan to expand capacity with the TSA checkpoint.

“As you start adding flights, you have a much larger number of passengers,” Stoudt said.

Construction could begin later next year, with an estimated opening in the beginning of 2022.








Seeing success with Thai cuisine, restaurateur embarks on next dining venture

With White Orchids restaurant now in its 12th year at the Promenade Shops in Saucon Valley, the owners of that establishment have added a new concept to their portfolio.

Restaurateurs Jeff Virojanapa, along with Chumroon and Pornpun Virojanapa will host an official grand opening of Notch Modern Kitchen & Bar on Oct. 16 with a ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m. at 5036 Hamilton Blvd. in Lower Macungie Township.

White Orchids owner Jeff Virojanapa has opened a second restaurant in Lower Macungie Township. (Submitted) –

With this new restaurant, the owners will depart from the traditional Thai cuisine featured at White Orchids and offer an American menu with Asian influences.

“We are looking to explore different Asian flavors,” Virojanapa said.

The menu includes variations on familiar American meals such as chicken wings, crab fritters, smoked tuna dip, fried chicken, pork ribs, fish and chips and hamburgers.

A resident of Center Valley, Jeff Virojanapa said he grew up in the Lower Macungie area and he and his folks wanted to own their own property in the township. They decided to start from the ground up and create a new restaurant in a building formerly occupied by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, a real estate firm.

“It was the original first school house in that area,” Virojanapa said. “It has some local history to it. They [the township] wanted to maintain the integrity of the building. We’ve been looking for a spot for the past four years.”

After taking ownership of the building in December 2018, the owners worked with Boyle Construction of South Whitehall Township and Alloy5, an architecture firm in Bethlehem to create the restaurant. DesignPoint Inc. of Hanover Township, Northampton County, was the interior designer.

Virojanapa said the overall total investment in the project is nearly $10 million, including construction costs and the purchase of the building.

Situated across from Hamilton Crossings, a large outdoor shopping center, the 6,000-square-foot restaurant can seat up to 200 people in multiple areas.

A second floor balcony can hold up to 65 people and the restaurant includes a raised patio that’s about 20 feet above ground level overlooking Hamilton Boulevard, he added.

The restaurant includes a 20-seat island bar and a variety of specialty cocktails, beer and wine.

Executive chef Tyler Baxter, formerly of Emeril’s Chophouse in Bethlehem, helms the kitchen while beverage manager Joshua Coates leads the bar.

Overall, Notch employs about 50 people, as does White Orchids, he added.

Virojanapa said he also has private dining space on the second floor for private events that can accommodate up to 65 people.

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce will host the ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m. with an opening party from 5 to 7 p.m.

Bethlehem casino’s new owners celebrate rebranding

With tribal dances, mid-day fireworks and the award of thousands of dollars to local nonprofits, the new owners of the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem strived to show their

Wind Creek President/CEO Jay Dorris speaks to the crowd at the grand opening celebration of Wind Creek Bethlehem’s rebranding. (Photo By Brian Pedersen) –

commitment to the city with a grand opening celebration Oct. 10.

Earlier this year, Wind Creek Hospitality bought the Bethlehem casino from Las Vegas Sands Corp. for $1.3 billion and since then has rebranded the site with its name throughout the property, which includes the casino, outlet mall, hotel, and event center. In addition, the sale included several vacant buildings the company plans to redevelop.

Jay Dorris, Wind Creek president and CEO, said they are working with the architectural and engineering teams for the hotel expansion and convention space they want to add but have no firm date on starting construction. Wind Creek has also not filed any plans with the city, yet, he said.

Wind Creek a privately held affiliate of the Porch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama, wants to expand the property to include a 300-room hotel adjacent to the casino. In addition, it plans to renovate the vacant Machine Shop No. 2 building into a new hotel and an adventure/water park, in addition to a spa and fitness center with a pool and meeting space. The Machine Shop project would take longer, Dorris said.

The new hotel adjacent to the casino would also include convention center space, he said.

Wind Creek aims to preserve what makes the property a special part of the Bethlehem community while introducing the Wind Creek brand, Dorris said.

“This has been a long journey for this team,” said Brian Carr, executive vice president and general manager at Wind Creek.

With about 2,500 employees at Wind Creek’s Bethlehem resort, the new owners will build on the success and promote growth of South Side Bethlehem and the valley, Carr said.

Reflecting on the 2009 opening of the Bethlehem casino, Sen. Lisa Boscolla said, “We overcame a lot of obstacles. This site is a prime example of the anchors casinos have become.”

At the time, many questioned the need for building a large-scale casino in Bethlehem, but as several officials noted at the grand opening of the re-branded site, the casino has generated economic growth for the city.

While some of the surrounding vacant properties have remained untouched, the casino’s arrival led to the development of the nearby ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks, the PBS-39 building, the Visitor’s Center and the Hoover Mason Trestle, an elevated walkway that brings people in close proximity to the iconic blast furnaces at the former Bethlehem Steel site.

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez said he had cast the deciding vote to approve the casino when he served as a city councilman.

“If we didn’t have Sands make the investment, we wouldn’t have the Hoover Mason Trestle and PBS,” Donchez said.

Both Dorris and Tribal Chair Stephanie Bryan emphasized their intention to rejuvenate and invest in the property and their commitment to Bethlehem.

“We have shared vision and shared values,” Bryan said. “We are looking at additional employment opportunities in Bethlehem. We are committed to doing more. We are committed to strengthening the great businesses that are already here.”

Wind Creek also announced that the local nonprofit organization Via of the Lehigh Valley won the $25,000 Charity Giving Contest. In addition, Wind Creek gave $10,000 each to all the other nine nonprofits who competed for the funds.






New restaurant slated for Bethlehem bar and grill

While Roosevelt’s 21st has been a fixture in Bethlehem for more than a decade, the owners have closed the business and are renovating the property to create a new restaurant that should open later this month.

Workers take down parts of the exterior of Roosevelt’s 21st in Bethlehem to create a new restaurant. (Photo by Brian Pedersen) –

Michael Relvas, co-owner, said they are changing the name and entire concept of Roosevelt’s. It will become 21 Craft House and Kitchen, with an entirely new interior and exterior look.

“It was ready for an update,” Relvas said. “We wanted to try to get away from the stigma that we are just a college bar. I can also understand how people can think that because we are across from Moravian College’s field.”

While he does not want to push out the college crowd, he would also like to expand his audience and attract new customers. He wants to create a more inviting place, which is why they changed the name.

Art Kassis is the co-owner.

Workers will add two large accordion doors that will open to the outside and inside, they removed the D.J. booth.

On Thursday, workers were in the demolition phase, working on the interior, which will have a more industrial look, with new tile and furniture.

Alfero Co. of Easton is the firm working on the project.

Relvas said he also hired a new chef, William Romero, who most recently worked at Wind Creek Bethlehem. Travis Schuch will be the new general manager.

The new restaurant will employ about 30 people.

Relvas said the new restaurant would offer more gastropub type food with an eclectic twist, different variations on traditional favorites. He plans to update the menu each season.

The address is 21 E. Elizabeth Ave. in Bethlehem.


Colorado company closes on acquisition that includes Pa. ski resorts

Vail Resorts Inc. of Bloomfield, Colorado, said it closed on its acquisition of Peak Resorts Inc. for a purchase price of $11 per share. With this acquisition, Vail Resorts added 17 U.S. ski areas to its network, including five in Pennsylvania.

Vail Resorts Inc. of Bloomfield, Colorado, said it closed on its acquisition of Peak Resorts Inc. The ski resorts include Roundtop in York County, pictured, and two in Carbon County. (File photo) –

In Pennsylvania, the acquired resorts are Jack Frost Ski Resort in Kidder Township, Carbon County; Big Boulder in Lake Harmony, Carbon County; Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Franklin County; Liberty Mountain Resort in Fairfield, Adams County; and Roundtop Mountain Resort in Lewisberry, York County.

Following the closing, Vail Resorts said it plans to invest about $15 million over the next two years in one-time capital spending to elevate the guest experience at these resorts. Additionally, the investment will increase the company’s annual ongoing capital expenditures by about $10 million to support the addition of the new ski areas.


“As the new owner of these ski areas, we are looking forward to spending the next few months learning more about each resort and what makes them unique,” said Margo Van Ness, spokesperson for Vail Resorts, in a statement. “Our first goal is to review and learn more about the specific operations at each resort to determine which capital projects will provide the greatest benefit to guests. On an ongoing basis, we will include the Peak Resorts ski areas, along with all of our other resorts, in our annual assessment of capital projects.”