Thursday, March 16, 2006

Leapfrogging the three-way quota? First the City Council must authorize a Riverfront Development project.

It’s a City Council Thursday in New Albany, and here’s the agenda.

One item in particular should speak loudly to all those interested in reviving New Albany’s downtown, for listed beneath the “Introduction of Ordinances” heading is R-06-07 (Councilman Jack Messer) is this:

“Designating the Boundaries of a Riverfront Development Project Area in the City of New Albany.”

As explained in the Wednesday Tribune:

Downtown restaurants could purchase liquor licenses at will, exempt from state-imposed quotas, in a redevelopment-inspired proposal on the city council’s agenda Thursday.

A state law that took effect in 2004 allows any city to designate a riverfront district where quotas wouldn’t apply. New Albany’s would encompass most of the area between Elm Street and the river, from E. 5th Street to Scribner Drive.

Three-way licenses, allowing the sale of beer, wine and liquor, cost $1,000 a year. State law allows only one license per 1,500 residents and New Albany’s are all taken, said economic development director Paul Wheatley, who crafted the resolution. A restaurateur who wants one must buy it used from its owner — at a considerable markup — or warrant a special exemption for a new one by demonstrating $50,000 in annual food sales.

From: Act would ease liquor-sale rules; Could city draw more restaurants downtown?, by Eric Scott Campbell (News-Tribune).

The point here with relevance to tonight’s meeting is that the council must provide a “local ordinance or resolution of the local governing body authorizing the municipal riverfront development project.” (Indiana Code 7.1-3-20).

Lest anyone reading this harbor the notion that the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission will greet the news of New Albany’s newly delineated Riverfront Development Project by tossing three-way permits into the air like confetti, be aware that the ATC’s voluminous regulations for granting permits still will apply.

The only aspect of the process that changes is the applicant’s access to a permit application beyond the limitations of the population-based quota.

There remain the usual hurdles of ownership, moral character, residency, bonding, location of premises, applicable fees and probably a dozen others that must be cleared before a three-way permit is issued – and the local alcohol board still might not approve the application:

What are some reasons a new permit may not be approved by a Local Board and the Commission?(from the ATC FAQ):

The applicant may be denied for any one of the following:

(1) The applicant does not maintain a high and fine reputation in the community; (2) There is no need for such services at this location; (3) The neighborhood or community does not desire these services; (4) The services at this location would have an impact on other businesses in the neighborhood as well as an impact of such services on the neighborhood in general; (5) The permit premises may be within 200 feet of a church or school; and (6) The premises is in a residential area as referred to in IC 7.1-1-3-8 and905 IAC 1-18-1.

Consider also that any three-way permits issued for use in the riverfront development area will be non-transferable, and cannot ever be used outside the designated boundaries.

All things considered, being permitted to skip the three-way permit quota is an incentive for doing business in a particular place where business is needed, and all the ATC’s prevailing rules (dozens and dozens and dozens) still apply. If quota exemption is the carrot, the “stick” is the fact that the area in question isn’t currently the best imaginable place to do business, but that could change quickly if the quota impediment is removed and critical mass forms.

Speaking personally, I strongly support this idea because it stands to be good for downtown, and consequently for the city at large, and not because I’m interested in acquiring a three-way permit under these conditions. Those who’ve known me for any amount of time can attest that I’ve no desire to be in the business of selling liquor – anywhere, anytime. Beer (and some wine) is quite enough for me, thank you.

If you’re wondering who’ll take the council lead in opposing this no-brainer of an ordinance – and make no mistake, there’ll be venomous opposition from somewhere – look no further than the councilman who has publicly derided Paul Wheatley, leaked documents to Erika, would disagree with “2 + 2 = 4” if such a statement were to be seen emanating from the mouth of the Mayor, and denounced Louisville’s vibrant Frankfort Avenue corridor as overcrowded.

Oops. Guess that’s more than one, isn’t it?


maury k goldberg said...
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TedF said...

During the Main Street Indiana conference last October this was a hot topic. It is a tool to help spur development downtown.

We heard testimonials from 2 restaurant owners in Downtown Lafayette. They could not have opened the businesses they had without this help.

This is a good thing and needs to happen.

Brandon W. Smith said...

No brainer?

na girl said...

Is there such a thing as a "no brainer" in New Albany?

The New Albanian said...

That's better -- a straight line I can really use.

"Is there such a thing as a "no brainer" in New Albany?"

Sure there is ... just look at the Gang of Four.

Iamhoosier said...

I was thinking Professor Erik. No brain. No body. No sense.

edward parish said...

No brainer, is there a grant for that? Just kidding.

We must remember other such deals in the not to distant past that was taken apart due to a member's "discomfort" with the idea for change.