Bars and sports bars are incompatible with residential areas. —Jonathan Dibble, resident

SALT LAKE CITY — City leaders have agreed to explore the possibility of expanding the area where businesses can serve alcohol, but not in areas near neighborhoods.

A suggestion made by a handful of residents who spoke at a public hearing Tuesday night calls for revisions to Mayor Ralph Becker's proposed changes to the city's alcohol regulations.

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 on location by letting zoning dictate where they're appropriate.

Residents suggested eliminating from Becker's zone-based proposal all commercial zones near residential areas — specifically the residential business, residential mixed-use, neighborhood commercial and community business districts.

"Bars and sports bars are incompatible with residential areas," said Jonathan Dibble, who lives near 2100 South and Princeton Drive. "At a minimum, we would ask you to remove (commercial zones near neighborhoods) from the mayor's proposal. … That would mitigate the damage to residential areas."

Following the 30-minute public hearing, first-year City Councilman Charlie Luke asked that the idea of removing those zones from the proposal be explored.

Luke said he agrees that allowing establishments that serve alcohol in some business and commercial districts near residential areas "is probably not appropriate."

"When you look at the hours of operation of a lot of these different establishments, they aren't conducive to a neighborhood," he said.

Council members agreed to form a three-person subcommittee — consisting of Luke, Councilwoman Jill Remington Love and Councilman Luke Garrott — to come up with possible revisions and present them to the council at a future work session.

A vote on the issue is expected next month.

If approved as proposed by the mayor, the revisions would do away with the city's alcohol map, which for the past 30 years has dictated where establishments that serve alcohol can locate. Instead, zoning would determine where bars could be located.

That's the part that has some residents concerned. Under the proposal, some businesses would be allowed to serve alcohol in commercial zones near neighborhoods.

"We live way too close to areas that would be potential (locations) for establishments that sell alcohol," said Jenet Erickson, who lives near Westminster College. "That creates anxiety for me, being a mother. … It seems like an unnecessary risk for us, for adolescents, for college students and for the entire community."

Of the 14 people who spoke during Tuesday night's public hearing, only one did so in favor of the mayor's proposed changes.

David Perschon said he owns property near 700 East and 900 South and has wanted for several years to open a cafe there.

"I've been told no over and over again," Perschon said. "Please don't let Salt Lake City fall behind the rest of the civilized world."

Since taking office in 2008, Becker has been working to make the city's liquor laws less restrictive.

Proposed changes in Salt Lake City follow actions by the state Legislature in 2009 that overhauled the state's liquor laws — including the elimination of private club membership requirements.

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