Failed motions, horse trading and parliamentary maneuvering were the order of the evening, but in the end the Salt Lake City Council voted 6 to 1 to adopt zoning regulations that allow pubs, dining clubs and social clubs in commercial districts abutting residential neighborhoods.
Mayor Ralph Becker had proposed the changes as part of his walkable-communities initiative.
In other legislative action Tuesday, the Salt Lake City Council voted 5-2 to allow mother-in-law apartments adjacent to single-family dwellings. But those accessory dwelling units must be located within a half-mile of light rail or street cars. The single-family dwellings must by owner-occupied, but the mother-in-law studios can be rented out.
In addition, the council unanimously adopted a companion ordinance that seeks to register all such apartments. Any resident who owns such a unit can register it with the city within the coming 12 months without penalty.
After several failed motions, Councilwoman Jill Remington Love introduced an ordinance that closely mirrored the mayor’s proposal. It succeeded.
But in her motion, two neighborhood business zones — neighborhood commercial and residential business — would allow dining clubs only. That left 10 other zones in Salt Lake City where bars and pubs could be located. Establishments selling alcohol in the community-business zone must be located at least 350 feet apart. In the other zones, they have to be at least 600 feet apart.
"We don’t want to create an entertainment district in our neighborhoods," Love said.
The vote was the conclusion of months of heated debate. According to city polling, Salt Lakers are deeply divided over locating bars in close proximity to residential neighborhoods.
The council took public comment before the vote.
"We don’t need bars and sports bars in our neighborhoods," Jonathan Dibble told the council Tuesday evening. "I hope you’ll see the common sense in not destroying our neighborhoods."
By contrast, Ernie Gamenal told the council that neighborhood pubs were a good idea.
"I want to thank you for considering adulthood," he said. "A pub in our neighborhood would enhance the community."
Every council member had an alternative ordinance prepared. Motions by Charlie Luke and Kyle LaMalfa failed.
East side council member Luke sought to eliminate some zones from retail alcohol establishments near neighborhoods defined by single-family homes.
In the end, a majority of the council approved a measure similar to Becker’s plan. But rather than allow the mayor’s proposed 2,500 square feet for neighborhood pubs, the council voted to limit them to 1,750 square feet. It also permits an additional 450 square feet for a patio.
The council, however, could not limit hours of operation. That is governed by Utah law that allows such establishments to remain open until 2 a.m. Some council members have voiced support for seeking a state law change that would allow cities to set earlier closing times on pubs, clubs and bars.
In the zones closest to residential areas, a pub owner would be required to obtain a "conditional use" permit from Salt Lake City. That requires an administrative process and a public hearing.
Council members, including Luke Garrott, who championed pubs as community-building amenities, said the "conditional use" process will help mitigate impacts, such as noise, lights and garbage.
Also, a potential pub proprietor would have to acquire a liquor license from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. That, Luke said, likely will limit the number of neighborhood pubs.
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