Orbis Seeks Liquor License

The owners of Orbis Caffé on Washington Road are hoping to add alcohol to the menu soon. Owner Grant Schutte received permission from the Mt. Lebanon Commission for the license, but before the corks pop, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board needs to give its approval. /Photo: Chris Leeper

If you’ve been following the commission meetings these past few months (we hope you have, but if not, you’ll find minutes and meeting details at mtlebanon.org), you may have noticed that Orbis Caffe working to obtain a liquor license for their current location at 673-675 Washington Road.

At the time this was written, a public hearing had been held on September 22, and the commission unanimously voted to adopt the resolution for the transfer of a liquor license on October 13. Now the transfer will move to the state level, where the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board will review the case and make a determination.

“No licenses within Mt. Lebanon itself were available, so we’re looking to bring a license in from the outside,” says Grant Schutte, Academy Avenue resident and owner of Orbis Caffe. “We’re going forward with planning and the prospect that it is going to come through, without the expectation.”

Right now, Orbis Caffe is a specialty coffee shop with regular hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, with special monthly themed dinners and Sunday brunches. They applied for this liquor license transfer to help expand their evening business. If they receive it, they hope to expand their hours to allow for a small, seasonal dinner menu.

“The liquor license, in our minds, is hopefully just an extension of our current business, and not a pivot,” says Schutte.

He believes the addition of alcohol also aligns with their vision of maintaining a European-style café—in France, for example, it is perfectly normal to go to a coffee shop and get a cappuccino, while your friend has a beer.

“It should be natural and aligned. We’re not thinking about coffee shop vs. bar, and we have no aspiration or goal of being a rowdy evening sports bar,” says Schutte. He envisions a small collection of beers, wines, cocktails and specialty liquors, including gins and amaros, which are Italian herbal liqueurs, usually consumed after dinner.

Schutte runs the business with his wife, Sonja, and his two daughters, Clara and Holly. Clara is the coffee shop manager and Holly, who usually cooks for the brunches and themed dinners, will continue her involvement in the planning the food for the evening menus.

“We’re just going to try something out. See if it works. In a year’s time, we could be saying ‘We tried this and it was an abject disaster,’ or we could say ‘Wow! We didn’t think people would get into this like they did,’” says Schutte. “The one thing that everyone needs to be cognizant of is that we are all going to have to have flexibility.”