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Neighborhood pubs in Salt Lake City? Not so fast, brother

Published July 18, 2012 11:04 am

Politics • Salt Lake City Council members seem to backtrack after getting an earful from residents.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Don't tap that keg yet.

Mayor Ralph Becker's proposal to overhaul Salt Lake City's decades-old alcohol zoning ordinance to allow, among other things, neighborhood pubs may be in trouble.

After an onslaught of negative testimonials from residents against neighborhood bars and pubs at a Tuesday evening public hearing, the Salt Lake City Council said it would take a new look at the proposal it once seemed to support.

In Utah, when the words "alcohol" and "neighborhoods" are mixed together, the conversation can bubble over like a brew with too much head. Several dozen residents told the council in no uncertain terms that Becker's proposal that would allow neighborhood pubs would be destructive to residential areas.

Many cited safety issues, including increased traffic, drunken driving and crime.

Jon Dibble, a longtime resident of the neighborhood surrounding 1300 South and 2100 East, said adopting Becker's alcohol zoning regulations would be "destructive to neighborhoods."

Dibble said he's not against bars generally, but "we don't need bars in every residential neighborhood."

And, he said, in an interview, if the proposed ordinance were to pass, his neighborhood would become a "zoo."

Pubs and sports bars will attract University of Utah students before and after games and that could lead to drunken chaos in what have been quiet communities.

Further, Dibble fears that bars and pubs would negatively impact property values.

Majorie Johnson told the council that she had just remodeled her house in what she described as a safe neighborhood at 1000 South and 2000 East.

"But we didn't plan bars on our doors and windows," she said referring to her belief that crime shoots up in areas where bars and pubs sell alcohol.

By contrast, Salt Lake City resident David Perschon explained to the council that current zoning laws require residents to drink and drive because there are no pubs in most neighborhoods.

In an interview, Perschon said that "neighborhood pubs and neighborhood bars exist in every neighborhood in every city in the world."

Residents who conjured up horror stories surrounding pubs don't know what they are talking about and are "living in fear," he said.

"Living in fear doesn't create community and it doesn't create neighborhoods."

After listening to residents, Councilman Charlie Luke suggested the council amend the proposed ordinance and drop alcohol sales in the Residential Business zone, the Neighborhood Commercial zone and the Community Business District.

"We are trying to treat all neighborhoods the same," he said of the proposal. "When we look at some neighborhoods, it's not appropriate."

Council Chairman Soren Simonsen said he would appoint a subcommittee to study Luke's proposal.

In an interview, Becker's spokesman Art Raymond said that removing those zones from the proposed ordinance would defeat the purpose of zoning that seeks to create walkable neighborhoods.

"The intent was not so much go create pubs as it was to create the opportunity for economic development. It's a plus for walkable communities," Raymond said.

The council will next address the issue at its Aug. 14 work session.