Six new liquor permits are available to restaurants interested in moving into the Shops at Worthington Place.

Six new liquor permits are available to restaurants interested in moving into the Shops at Worthington Place.

Worthington City Council on June 4 unanimously approved the city's first community entertainment district (CED), which will be inside and surrounding the mall.

Thirty acres, including all of the land north of West Wilson Bridge Road, east of North High Street and south of Old West Wilson Bridge Road, is included in the CED. State law permits one CED liquor permit per 5 acres.

Worthington Place currently has only one full-service restaurant, Amano's, but mall owner Tom Carter hopes the CED designation might help attract others.

Worthington Square Venture LLC is spending $19 million on the purchase and redevelopment of Worthington Place.

Thus far, Panera Bread and a yogurt shop have committed to the mall. Neither serves alcohol.

Space is available for up to four additional restaurants at the mall, and plans call for construction of a new hotel eventually.

Without the CED designation, no additional liquor permits are available in the city of Worthington.

State law limits liquor permits to one per a 2,000-person population. Seven D-1 (beer only), D-2 (wine only), D-3 (spirituous liquor only) and D-5 (beer, wine and spirituous liquor) are issued. A total of 14 Worthington restaurants have one or more of those licenses.

If a Worthington establishment were permitted to buy a liquor permit, it would cost $25,000 to $30,000 on the open market, according to liquor-license attorney Marc Myers.

In a CED, the cost of a "D-5j" license is $2,344, and it allows its owner to sell beer, wine and spirituous liquors.

One concern among council members when approving the ordinance allowing CEDs was that existing establishments would sell their license and buy the less-expensive D-5j license.

Amano's representatives said they are uncertain whether the restaurant would sell its current license and purchase a special CED license. Neither Kroger nor Sugar Bush, which are the other two license holders at the mall, intend to take advantage of the CED licenses, according to the CED application.

"Having a CED will help the development of the mall," council member Bonnie Michael said. "It will help rejuvenate not only the mall, but the whole Wilson Bridge corridor."

Worthington became eligible for CEDs in March, after state Rep. Mike Duffey introduced and successfully passed an amendment to the state law last year.

In April, council approved its CED policy and procedures. Carter applied for the CED on May 18.

CEDs also are available in other areas of the city where entertainment, retail, social, cultural and other establishments are. A property owner within a potential CED must apply to the city. CEDs must be at least 20 acres in size.

Other central Ohio CEDs are in Upper Arlington, Easton and the Brewery District.