The Beta Theta Pi fraternity house sits empty as a student walks by in May. Attorneys for Penn State alum Donald Abbey asked a Centre County judge to issue an injunction that would prevent the rental of the Beta Theta Pi house and sale of alcohol. Abby Drey Centre Daily Times, file
The Beta Theta Pi fraternity house sits empty as a student walks by in May. Attorneys for Penn State alum Donald Abbey asked a Centre County judge to issue an injunction that would prevent the rental of the Beta Theta Pi house and sale of alcohol. Abby Drey Centre Daily Times, file

Penn State

Donor asks judge to stop Beta Theta Pi frat house rentals

By Lori Falce

lfalce@centredaily.com

October 06, 2017 11:06 AM

While State College borough and Beta Theta Pi are working out how renting the frat house can happen legally, one man is asking a judge to just shut it down.

Donald Abbey is the Penn State and Beta Theta Pi alumnus who is suing the Alpha Upsilon chapter of the fraternity. He says he has given the fraternity $8.5 million for the Burrowes Street house over the years under an agreement where the money must be returned if the building stops being a Beta Theta Pi fraternity house. He argues that happened when the fraternity lost its national charter and was banned by Penn State after the February death of pledge Timothy Piazza, 19.

On Thursday, attorneys for Abbey filed a motion for special injunction and preliminary injunction asking a Centre County judge to shut down the fraternity’s house corporation — the alumni decision-makers — from renting the property.

“Specifically, the House Corp. is renting the house and selling food and alcohol to members and ‘guests’ of the House Corp. without possessing the zoning permits and liquor license required for such activities,” attorney Edward Butkovitz wrote.

Abbey wants the rentals shut down because of possible fines.

The rentals first came to light in September when a communication to members offered the house for use, coinciding with a Penn State football home game. The proceeds of the rentals were noted as going to the corporation’s defense fund, according to the Associated Press.

According to court documents, Abbey sent a cease and desist letter Sept. 19. The fraternity responded two days later, saying it intended to continue using the house.

The danger in that, Butkovitz’s motion says, is that a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board fine for selling liquor without a license would take precedence to Abbey’s claim.

Pennsylvania State Police Liquor Control Enforcement information puts possible fines for an unlicensed establishment at $2 per fluid ounce of beer and $4 per fluid ounce of wine or liquor. Those fines are calculated off the containers found on the premises, full or empty.

“In an effort to conceal these sales, the House Corp. packages its sale of beer and wine with its provision of lodging and meals, for which fees are charged,” Butkovitz’s motion reads.

LCE rules seem to take that into account, noting as an example of an unlawful sale paying a price for a package that includes food, entertainment and liquor, or paying for entrance to an event where alcohol will be provided.

The document also cites concerns with local issues with whether the Alpha Upsilon use violates State College zoning regulations.

Alpha Upsilon’s attorney has not responded for comment.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce

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