Traverse City Record-Eagle

Region

June 16, 2008

Liquor licenses up for discussion

Some want more alcohol downtown, others concerned

TRAVERSE CITY -- A local businessman and others are thirsty for more liquor licenses downtown, but not everyone is raising their glasses to additional alcohol-serving establishments.

City commissioners today will consider creating a special redevelopment project area to allow more liquor licenses in the Downtown Development Authority district. More than 20 businesses in the district hold liquor licenses.

The state controls the amount of liquor licenses based on population, and the city is at its limit for Class C licenses.

Paul Danielson, owner of Trattoria Stella at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, wants a liquor license so he can open a restaurant on the ground floor of the Whiting Hotel on Front Street.

He wouldn't comment on his plans, but said it's a "little different" than what's downtown now, and he hopes it will generate more evening traffic.

"If you're trying to build an area with high-density city areas or high-density towns with rural around them, as opposed to sprawl, you're going to have to do things to keep people downtown," Danielson said.

But not all city bar owners are keen on the idea.

"There are just so many restaurants and so many bars right now that are downtown that it's starting to cut the pie so thin, and makes it hard for existing businesses," said David VanOcker, owner of Union Street Station.

City Commissioner Ralph Soffredine also is cool to the idea.

"I think we have to discuss it as a commission because at one time in our downtown area, it was bar, after bar, after bar," Soffredine said, describing Traverse City in the 1950s and '60s. "I'm concerned about it and I don't want to see us have to revert back to that."

State law allows cities to create redevelopment project areas where additional liquor licenses can be issued if certain criteria are met.

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