UA council slates special meeting to determine fate of liquor initiative
Upper Arlington City Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4, to decide whether to keep a liquor permit issue on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The proposal seeks to allow alcohol throughout the Lane Avenue Community Entertainment District.
Council will hold the special meeting immediately following a regularly scheduled conference session, which is slated for 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 4 at Upper Arlington City Hall.
The city must notify the Franklin County Board of Elections by Wednesday, Sept. 5, if it opts to remove the issue from the ballot.
The announcement of the special meeting followed an Aug. 30 closed-door meeting city officials held with business owners in the Lane Avenue CED.
“We should have a very clear direction on what’s happening by the end of the meeting on Tuesday,” said Emma Speight, Upper Arlington community affairs director.
At issue is whether a “no” vote on the ballot issue could void liquor permits currently held by 11 businesses in the CED.
Currently, liquor permits are allowed in portions of the 39-acre CED, and those permits presently are held by various businesses, including the Wine Bistro, Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern, La Chatelaine French Bakery and Bistro and Whole Foods Market.
However, other areas of the district are “dry” – including a 26,000-square-foot space on the former site of Lane Avenue Baptist Church, which has been earmarked for redevelopment that is supposed to include restaurants with bars.
Council on Aug. 6 unanimously approved an ordinance to place an issue on the Nov. 6 ballot, asking Upper Arlington voters to allow liquor permits for all businesses in the CED.
City Attorney Jeanine Amid Hummer said the intent was to extend liquor permit accessibility to new businesses coming to the entertainment district. City officials, including Hummer, thought approval of the November ballot issue would only affect new businesses and would not put existing liquor licenses at risk should it fail.
When questions arose as to the potential fallout of the Nov. 6 vote, the city sought an opinion from the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, which in turn sought guidance from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Attorney General Mike DeWine concluded that a “no” vote on Nov. 6 would mean current license-holders would lose their abilities to sell alcohol.
Hummer said she “respectfully disagrees” with the attorney general’s finding.
Speight said representatives of Lane Avenue Redevelopment LCC, which is developing the former Lane Avenue Baptist Church site, told city officials on Aug. 30 they support a roll of the dice with voters.
“The representatives of the mixed-use project and J. Lui are in favor of the city moving forward with the ballot issue,” she said.
Speight added that if the ballot issue is rejected, the developer and J. Lui officials “may well bring (the ballot issue) forward next year.”