After a couple weeks of hot debate over establishing a revitalization district in downtown Marietta, officials have learned the city isn't currently eligible for the process.
"To qualify for revitalization there has to be no more D-5 liquor licenses available, or the area has to be over its quota for liquor licenses but there is still one D-5 license that's not being used in Marietta," explained city law director Paul Bertram III.
The D-5 licenses allow local bars and restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages until at least 1 a.m. daily. A new D-5l license, created by the state legislature in 2008, gives bars and restaurants in a designated revitalization district the same privileges.
Ohio Revised Code provides for development of the districts in specifically-designated areas of a city that include, or will include, a combination of entertainment, retail, educational, sporting, social, cultural or arts establishments.
The law also makes D-5l liquor licenses available to restaurants located within a city's established revitalization district.
The size of the proposed revitalization district in Marietta-more than 100 acres-would qualify for up to 15 new D-5l liquor licenses for an annual fee of $2,344 each from interested eateries located within the district.
If you go
- Marietta City Council meets in regular session Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the community building at Lookout Park. All council meetings, except executive sessions, are open to the public.
- More information is available on the city Web site at http://www.mariettaoh.net/
But the city must have no D-5 licenses available to be eligible for a revitalization district.
During a meeting of city council's planning, zoning, annexation and housing committee Tuesday, Bertram said the one unclaimed liquor license has apparently been available for 44 years, but did not show up on the Ohio Liquor Control Board's website until Friday.
He and committee chairman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, discovered the D-5 license existed after contacting Chris Knettler, chief of licensing for the Ohio Department of Commerce's Liquor Control Division, last week.
Kalter had called to ask Knettler if he could answer some questions local business people had about the D-5l license and revitalization process.
"Knettler asked me to take the questions and then submit them to him," Kalter said. "Then he said, 'By the way, (the city) is not eligible to apply for a revitalization district because only seven of your D-5 licenses are being used.'"
He said Knettler believes the remaining D-5 license will go quickly because several area establishments would be interested in paying the $2,344 fee to obtain the permit.
As of Tuesday Dr. Roger Anderson and former mayor and current city councilman Michael Mullen had submitted applications for the license.
Mullen, who opened a local pizza business while still serving as mayor last year, initiated the conversation about establishing a revitalization district. But his recommendation was tabled by city council members who believed acting on the request at that time would represent a conflict of interest for the mayor.
Anderson was also the property owner within the proposed revitalization district who applied to the city administration last month to have the district established downtown. But the fact that the city still has an unclaimed D-5 permit disqualified his revitalization district request.
"We'll reapply for the revitalization district once the last D-5 license is approved," Anderson said Tuesday.
That could take some time, according to Bertram.
"If someone applies for the D-5 license, it would take between 60 days and six months for approval, according to Knettler," he said. "And several people could apply for the license."
Bertram also noted amendments to the law governing establishment of a revitalization district will go into effect Monday. One of those changes makes it mandatory that 75 percent of the business generated by a bar or restaurant must be from food service to qualify for a D-5l liquor license.
That's significant as opponents to the revitalization district have expressed concern that allowing up to 15 D-5l permits would result in an increase in bars that rely on liquor sales only for revenue.
Although it could be several months before Anderson or another downtown property owner reapplies for a revitalization district, Kalter said the issue will eventually have to come before council.
"Rather than start this process all over again, we want to keep this conversation going and give everyone an opportunity to ask questions or make comments on the issue," he said.
Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, also recommended that Kalter ask the Marietta Development Advisory Board for an opinion on establishment of a revitalization district.
The DAB meets monthly to discuss issues related to the city's future development.
Mayor Joe Matthews said he would see to it that the topic is brought before the DAB.