Noblesville starts processing liquor licenses for new Riverfront district

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Noblesville officials sent the first liquor license application for the recently designated Riverfront Redevelopment District to the state this week. The Noblesville City Council created the district last month to allow for more alcohol licenses and hopefully attract more bars and restaurants downtown as part of an ongoing strategy to appeal to younger residents. 

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

By establishing the district, the city can have an unlimited number of three-way and two-way (beer and wine) licenses. However, Noblesville is limiting the newly available three-way permits to 10, with the option to increase it if necessary. There are eight two-way licenses remaining.

South of Chicago Pizza and Beef is the first business to submit an application for a three-way license in the district, which includes the city’s downtown area and Federal Hill project to the west. Alaina Shonkwiler, economic development specialist for Noblesville, said she sent the application earlier this week to the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, which gives final approval.

When cities hit the cap 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.

Phil Lothamer, co-owner of the South of Chicago Pizza and Beef, said he started the process of opening in Noblesville about eight months ago, with the intention of just getting a two-way license, but he preferred the three-way option.

“It just gives you the option to be able to cater to more people,” Lothamer said. “Most people are OK with just beer and wine, but there are some people who just want their martini.”

The restaurant will open at 56 S. Ninth St. later this month in about 1,800 square feet, plus a basement with an additional 1,700 square feet for a wine cellar, kitchen prep and possibly seating for private events. It will be the restaurant’s third location around Indianapolis.

Courtney’s Kitchen is also moving forward with its application to upgrade from a two-way license to a three-way license, Shonkwiler said.

Seven other businesses in the district also have two-way licenses, and there are five three-way licenses currently.

In addition to restaurant owners seeking the permits, landlords are also seizing the new opportunity.

Nova 29, which is the landlord for The Ville Restaurant that has a two-way license now; and 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, are both filing applications.

Shonkwiler said it’s common for landlords to obtain the permit so it stays with the facility, regardless of what restaurant is operating out of it. 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.

Mayor John Ditslear said the state law that allows riverfront redevelopment district was intended to help local restaurants and bars when the riverboat industry grew in Indiana.

Ditslear said the city sees it as an opportunity to help existing restaurants that don’t have three-way liquor licenses but would like one, and to attract more businesses to open downtown.

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