Archive for Thursday, July 10, 2008

Council eyes downtown liquor change

July 10, 2008

After 150 years of a liquor-less downtown, Baldwin City Council members took the first step Monday night to change that.

The council approved on first reading an ordinance amending the central business zoning classification to include "drinking establishments qualifying as restaurants" as a permitted use.

"The intent of this basically allows a full bar," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "It's proposed that we allow a drinking establishment that is a restaurant."

Currently, only cereal malt beverages can be sold in downtown Baldwin City. Liquor by the drink is allowed elsewhere in town. When Baker University was founded 150 years ago, land around it was sold to finance the college. The deeds to that land contained provisions outlawing the sale or manufacture of alcohol. However, those provisions have never been enforced and Baker now allows alcohol on a limited basis on campus.

Dingman told the council that the planning commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. July 17 at the library. The council will make the decision following that hearing at its July 21 meeting.

The first reading passed 4-0. Council Member Doyle Jardon, who has voted against alcohol-related measures in the past, was absent.

Dingman told the council that the change does not pave the way for bars.

"This essentially allows a restaurant to offer a full bar of alcohol, alcoholic liquor, spirits, wine and beer along with its food menu," he said. "Currently, only cereal malt beverage is allowed for sale at those restaurants in the central business district.

"The proposed ordinance does not allow a tavern, bar or drinking establishment in the downtown district unless it can meet the food-sales requirement to qualify as a restaurant," said Dingman.

The food-sales requirement is for 50 percent of the business' revenue to come from food sales. Council President Amy Cleavinger asked why the requirement was 50 percent. Dingman said that was a number he thought appropriate.

He also said the change was in accordance with recent measures by the city.

"The proposed ordinance is in keeping with goals specified in the recently adopted comprehensive plan in that we 'create, maintain and enhance downtown as the core for retail, restaurants, government and professional services, and offices' in that it may make downtown more attractive for an existing restaurant or potential restaurant owner wishing to locate there," said Dingman.

Unlike the last time there was an alcohol question before the council, this proposal won't be subject to the protest petition that delayed Sunday sales of alcohol several years ago. After the council passed that measure 3-2, a group of citizens signed a petition which forced a late December special election. Voters approved Sunday sales.

"This is a totally different process," said Dingman. "That required a charter ordinance. This is simply an amendment to the zoning ordinances."

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