Salt Lake council discusses size, hours of proposed neighborhood bars

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 21 2012 6:56 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A proposal by Mayor Ralph Becker to allow neighborhood bars in Salt Lake City inched closer to reality Tuesday as members of the City Council debated alterations and alternatives during a council work session.

A subcommittee of three council members presented four alternate plans to the council, looking at various options such as the allowable size of alcohol-serving businesses, the type of business and their proximity to neighborhoods. Council members then conducted a series of straw polls in an attempt to narrow down on a passable ordinance.

Becker's original proposal continues to have the widest support, but a number of amendments are expected to be considered by the council. A final vote will likely take place in September.

Among the considerations discussed by the council was a general consensus that neighborhood businesses be limited to a size of either 1,750 or 2,000 square feet. Council members also expressed a desire to limit hours of operation, either by an appeal to the Legislature to change state statute or indirectly by enforcing noise ordinances.

"Any or all of these could also have the stipulations on square footage and/or operating hours," Council Chairman Soren Simonsen said of the plans that garnered the most council support.

Becker has stated his goal of "normalizing" liquor laws since taking office in 2008. In 2010, after more than a year of study and input from the public, Backer put forward his proposal for revising the city liquor laws. 

The proposal aims to change zoning ordinances to extend the area in which alcohol can be sold as a primary revenue source, including in commercial areas near, or surrounded by, residential neighborhoods. Businesses are also regulated based on a series of designations depending on the proportion of their revenue earned from food and alcohol sales.  

Some council members have argued against businesses that sell alcohol without food — such as social clubs, taverns and brew pubs — being allowed near neighborhoods. Those views were brought up at Tuesday's meeting, but straw polling did not make it clear what designations would or would not be allowed in city ordinance.

"I'm just not comfortable with the social club being allowed in a neighborhood," Councilwoman Jill Remington Love said.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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