North suburbs fermenting strategies for new liquor licenses

Noblesville could increase its number of available liquor licenses again.

The Noblesville City Council approved the creation of the Riverfront Redevelopment District about a year ago, which allowed for an unlimited number of alcohol permits within the designated area.

At the time, the council decided to cap the number at 10 new three-way permits and eight two-way permits. All of the three-way licenses have since been applied for or received, and city officials are now requesting the council allow an additional 10 permits.

The city established the district, which includes the city’s downtown area and Federal Hill project to the west, in June 2015 as part a long-term strategy to attract more bars and restaurants downtown as a way to appeal to younger residents.

In Indiana, communities are limited on the number of alcohol licenses based on population figures, and Noblesville had hit its limit of 32 three-way (beer, wine and liquor) permits.

When cities reach their limits for licenses, businesses typically turn to the open market to purchase one, but they are sold at a much higher cost. For example, a permit could be $50,000 on the open market, whereas the state price is $1,000.

In Noblesville’s Riverfront Redevelopment District, the state issues the licenses, but they require mayoral approval and can be revoked at any time.

Alaina Shonkwiler, economic development specialist for Noblesville, said she wasn’t surprised the initial 10 were claimed within the first year, but didn’t expect as many two-way license holders (beer and wine) to upgrade to the three-way license.

Rosie’s Place, Asian Grill, Courtney’s Kitchen and Michaelangelo’s Italian Bistro all switched to the three-way license. The other three-way permits went to Silver Dollar/Rail Station, South of Chicago Pizza & Beef, Matteo’s Ristorante, Uptown Cafe and SmithHouse Event Center.

Nova 29, the landlord for The Ville Restaurant, has a pending application for the last available three-way license.

BlueSky Technology Partners, which will be the landlord for a 6,000-square-foot restaurant once the new BlueSky Technology headquarters is built off Indiana 38 near John and Osborn streets, is expected to apply for a permit in the future along with several other existing and potentially new restaurants, according to Shonkwiler.

“I’m sure [demand] will taper off,” Shonkwiler said. “I think 10 will suffice for probably the next two years.”

The licenses in the Riverfront Redevelopment District are specific to the area, so if a business leaves the district it cannot take the license with it. Also, unlike regular liquor licenses, businesses cannot sell or transfer riverfront-specific ones.

The Noblesville City Council is expected to consider the request and could vote on it at its meeting tonight.

Other cities in Hamilton and Boone counties also are determining how to distribute additional liquor licenses.

A bill approved by the General Assembly last session allows the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to issue up to four new permits each in Whitestown, Lebanon, Zionsville, Westfield, Carmel and Fishers—with the total issued under the new provisions not to exceed 24.

Each permit costs $40,000.

The Carmel City Council approved an ordinance last month that requires the new permits to be used in City Center, the Arts & Design District, Midtown or the Proscenium development.

Any establishment applying for the license must be open at least six days per week for at least 30 hours and must provide the city with information on the type of dining services offered, its proposed menu, financial statements for the past five years (if applicable), an explanation on how the restaurant would benefit the redevelopment area it is locating in and the number of jobs anticipated.

The Westfield City Council is considering a similar ordinance that would limit the new permits to its Grand Junction Economic Development Area.

Westfield is also requesting applicants provide an explanation on how the business would promote a dining, entertainment or cultural experience as opposed to promoting alcohol consumption and how it would attract visitors to Westfield.

In both communities, the permits would be non-transferrable. In Westfield, a special review committee would evaluate applications, while in Carmel, the mayor would consider applications and make recommendations to the City Council.

Westfield City Council could approved the guidelines later this month.

The Fishers City Council is also expected to consider an ordinance when it meets Monday that would keep the new permits in its Nickel Plate District, which encompasses downtown.

Several of the other communities are still waiting to distribute the permits or consider applicants.

Whitestown Town Manager Dax Norton said there is interest from three businesses, and the permits are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Zionsville Mayor Tim Haak said the town hasn’t determined how it will handle the permits yet.

So far, Lebanon’s guidelines are more vague than other communities. The ordinance the City Council is considering would require interested restaurants to make written commitments that would vary by applicant to ensure the business is aligned with the town’s vision for economic development. The mayor’s office and the redevelopment commission would approve the written commitments prior to the restaurant receiving the permit.

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