Upper Arlington city officials and businesses in the Lane Avenue Community Entertainment District are cautiously optimistic that residents will support Issue 24 on Nov. 6 and, in doing so, aid the community's economic development and current proprietors in the area.
Upper Arlington City Council voted Sept. 4 to keep a liquor option to permit alcohol sales throughout a 39-acre commercial stretch of Lane Avenue on the ballot. In doing so, council members essentially put the fates of liquor licenses for 11 businesses that currently hold them in the hands of city voters.
If Issue 24 is approved, those 11 businesses -- including the Wine Bistro, Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern, La Chatelaine French Bakery and Bistro and Whole Foods Market -- will keep their liquor licenses.
Approval of Issue 24 also would allow new businesses going into the Lane Avenue CED to sell or serve liquor. That includes a 26,000-square-foot space that formerly housed the Lane Avenue Baptist Church and several residential properties that have been earmarked for redevelopment that includes restaurants with bars, as well as the proposed site of the J. Liu restaurant and bar.
However, the Ohio Attorney General's Office has ruled that should the issue fail, the entire CED would become "dry," including the 11 current license-holders.
Among the current license-holders are Stan and Gigi Wielezynski, who own La Chatelaine. They created a business plan for their French bakery and bistro 22 years ago.
According to Stan Wielezynski, he would not be able to provide an authentic French dining experience without a license to sell alcohol. Therefore, failure of Issue 24 could turn his local business upside down.
"It would be a very, very, very bad situation if we could not sell alcohol," he said. "There's no way you can serve a French dinner if you can't have a glass of wine."
Wielezynski said he and his wife would continue to operate their business on Lane Avenue, even if Issue 24 fails, but it would require them to completely rework their business model.
He hopes it's a prospect that doesn't become reality, as approximately 70 percent of his total alcohol sales come during dinner hours.
"It would affect us in terms of changing dinner," he said. "We're talking about quality wines my wife and I pick up ourselves.
"That is the charm of La Chatelaine. We are established for 22 years and we have developed a reputation."
The other 10 current-license holders in the CED are: Carsonie's Stromboli & Pizza Kitchen, China Dynasty, Easy Living Deli, Piada Italian Street Food, Pizza Hut, Royal Ginger Asian Fusion Bistro, Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern, Speedway, Whole Foods Market and the Wine Bistro.
Some businesses contacted by ThisWeek Upper Arlington News declined to comment on the matter.
One store manager noted that although her employer isn't speaking publicly, the businesses in the CED are supportive of Issue 24 and are communicating that to their customers.
Gary Callicoat, Rusty Bucket's founder and president, issued the following statement when asked about the potential impact of Issue 24:
"The passage of Issue 24 ensures the vitality and future success of Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern and that of our fellow restaurant and entertainment businesses along the growing Lane Avenue Corridor. As a neighborhood restaurant, we believe passage of this issue will only continue to improve the Upper Arlington community and the growth of the city as a whole. We have been a proud partner of the Upper Arlington community since 2003, supporting area schools, arts, festivals and other business and community organizations. We look forward to continuing this partnership and providing the neighborhood with a family-friendly place to gather and dine with friends and neighbors."
Since council's decision to keep Issue 24 on the November ballot, the city of Upper Arlington has sent mailers to residents seeking to educate them on the matter and asking for their support of it.
The Upper Arlington Chamber of Commerce also has endorsed the issue, as has a political-action committee consisting of a group of Upper Arlington businesses, residents and other supporters calling itself Yes on Issue 24.
ThisWeek Upper Arlington News has not discovered any organized opposition to Issue 24.
Although they are confident the liquor issue will pass, city officials said last month they have received indications from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control that options exist should the measure fail; current license-holders could seek a "stay" of the vote for one year.
Upper Arlington Assistant City Attorney Tom Lindsey said Sept. 8 the stay would allow those businesses to seek approvals for their individual licenses by voters next November.
Lindsey said the city also could dissolve the CED, seek a new state law to address the Lane Avenue district issue or take the matter to court, but none of those objectives are cinches.
"We have options, but unfortunately, without prior court activity, we don't have certainty with the law," Lindsey said. "We just can't provide you an absolute guarantee."
Last week, Upper Arlington Community Affairs Director Emma Speight said none of those alternatives are concrete, but the city is looking into potential options with an eye on protecting the businesses in the CED.
"Those still are being really explored and refined as far as what is best," Speight said. "(If it fails) the city would jump-to immediately to work with the impacted businesses and do everything available to protect them and protect the corridor."
Wielezynski said he believes Issue 24 will pass because Upper Arlington voters are "intelligent" and because it would provide local dining and entertainment options for people who otherwise would have to travel elsewhere.
"I'm not too worried about it, to tell you the truth," he said. "I think the government in Upper Arlington is made up of very smart people, and we are dealing with intelligent people who will vote.
"We believe the whole corridor situation is good for Upper Arlington. We think the people of Upper Arlington will understand the whole concept and say 'yes'."