SLC leaders propose alternative to mayor's neighborhood bar plan

Published: Monday, Aug. 20 2012 9:06 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The way Charlie Luke sees it, there are areas of the city where bars are appropriate, and neighborhoods aren't among them.

So it shouldn't be too surprising that the first-year Salt Lake City councilman doesn't support Mayor Ralph Becker's proposal to expand the area where businesses that serve alcohol can set up shop in Utah's capital city.

Under Becker's plan, some businesses would be allowed to serve alcohol in commercial zones near neighborhoods. The goal, city leaders have said, is to make the city's alcohol regulations consistent with state law, more business-friendly and less restrictive by letting zoning dictate their location.

Luke says feedback through public hearings, phone calls, email and online forums indicates that most Salt Lake City residents aren't comfortable having bars close to their homes. And that's why he asked to be part of a City Council subcommittee to suggest revisions to Becker's proposal.

Luke and the other two members of the subcommittee, Jill Remington Love and Luke Garrott, have crafted four alternatives to Becker's plan and are scheduled to present them to their City Council colleagues during a work session Tuesday.

"We came up with those options based on (City Council) discussions and public comment," Love said. "We've had a lot of public comment on this."

Luke is advocating for an alternative that would allow only restaurants to serve alcohol in commercial zones near neighborhoods. That means establishments that serve alcohol without food — such as social clubs, taverns and brew pubs — would not be able to locate in those areas.

He says that option best reflects feedback he's received from his constituents.

"You'll still be able to get a drink if you're so inclined, but it doesn't have as much of an impact (on neighborhoods) as (Becker's proposal) does, in my opinion," Luke said.

All four of the subcommittee's options call for liquor stores to be prohibited near residential zones.

Other recommendations include limiting the size of establishments that sell alcohol as their primary revenue source in commercial zones near neighborhoods to either 1,500 feet or 1,750 feet. A closing time of 11 p.m. also is recommended for such establishments.

City Council Chairman Soren Simonsen said a vote on the issue is likely a month away.

The "normalizing" of liquor laws in the city, as Becker calls it, has been one of the mayor's goals since taking office in 2008. In March 2010, following more than a year of study and public input, Becker put forward a proposal to revise city liquor laws.

Actions by the state Legislature in 2009 that overhauled the state's liquor laws — including the elimination of private club membership requirements — acted as a springboard for proposed changes at the city level.

That same year, the City Council did away with a law that prohibited more than two bars per city block face. Other proposed revisions to city liquor laws had been on hold since late 2010 while city officials worked on an overall plan for neighborhood businesses.

If the City Council votes to allow neighborhood bars as proposed by Becker, business owners would have to meet several conditions to do so.

In addition to state regulations that prevent businesses from selling or serving alcohol within 600 feet of churches, schools, parks, playgrounds and libraries, several conditions would be placed on all such establishments in Salt Lake City's residential business, neighborhood commercial and community business districts.

Businesses wanting to serve alcohol in commercial zones near residential areas also would have to file a security and operations plan, which requires that representatives of the businesses meet with neighbors to resolve any complaints before that business is allowed to locate there.

The plans also would require businesses to meet criteria designed to prevent future complaints, such as buffers between the business and homes.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com

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