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Salt Lake Council brews up alternatives to mayor’s pubs plan

Alternatives would rein in the mayor’s proposal to liberalize liquor laws.

First Published Aug 21 2012 07:58 pm • Last Updated Nov 30 2012 11:33 pm

It’s trouble with a capital "T," that rhymes with "B," and that stands for booze.

The Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday shook up — or was it stirred? — Mayor Ralph Becker’s proposal to liberalize the city’s liquor laws by forwarding four proposals that sought to reduce the mayor’s formula for creating neighborhood pubs.

At a glance

Council delays Move to Amend poll

The Salt Lake City Council, in a unanimous straw poll Tuesday, determined that it did not have time before the November election to adopt a mode to poll voters on a referendum forwarded by the grassroots organization Move to Amend.

Move to Amend gathered 11,000 signatures to put two questions to voters relating to “corporate person-hood” and whether limiting campaign money is equivalent to limiting speech.

But according to Utah law, such opinion questions cannot be put to on a ballot. The council had sought to find a way around the law this year, but determined a special mail-in ballot or online system would take more time to develop.

The council, however, appeared ready to adopt an ordinance that would allow an avenue for such referendums to reach Salt Lake City voters in November 2013. No date has been scheduled for a vote on the ordinance.

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By the end of the council’s work session, two of the proposals were eliminated. But the decision-making appeared far from over.

The alternatives were born after several public hearings where the council heard alarming testimonials from residents who fear their neighborhoods will be overrun by drunks and drunken drivers.

"There are some areas where social clubs don’t work," said Councilman Charlie Luke, who represents District 6 on the east side. He said such pubs and bars are more appropriate for densely populated areas rather than single-family neighborhoods.

But Councilman Kyle LaMalfa, who represents District 2 on the west side, said Salt Lake City is lacking neighborhood pubs that are in keeping with the city’s philosophy of developing walkable communities.

"There is a difference between restaurants [that serve alcohol] and social clubs," he said. "Social clubs are lacking. The ordinance is about people and social interaction."

While Becker’s proposal would allow brewpubs, sports bars and pubs in commercial nodes in neighborhoods, the various alternatives put forth would pare that back.

Among the restrictions outlined was to enforce a closing time of 11 p.m., rather than the state mandated 1 a.m. Another would be to reduce the mayor’s designation of 2,500 square feet for such bars to 1,750 square feet. Others would reduce zoning for pubs in some neighborhood commercial nodes.

Councilwoman Jill Remington Love, also an east-side representative of District 5, said every area should have a neighborhood like 1500 East and 1500 South. It has four restaurants that serve alcohol but no pubs.

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"It’s a gathering spot, and it does it without establishments that primarily serve alcohol," she said. "People gathering are having their Sugar Shack snow cones."

But Councilman Luke Garrott, who represents central city’s District 4, said people ought to have a place to gather for a beer without having to buy food.

The mayor’s proposal was originally intended to spur activity in neighborhood commercial areas by treating pubs much like other businesses when it comes to zoning.

Garrott said neighborhoods where pubs are allowed would have an economic advantage over those where they are not permitted.

"Some neighborhood business districts will be held back because they don’t have a bar," Garrott said.

The council was not able to reach a consensus, although it did whittle out the most restrictive of the proposals.

The matter was scheduled for more discussion and a possible vote in mid-September.


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