Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 17, 2013

Long dry city: Eateries now can sell beer, wine


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — OAK PARK (AP) — Some eateries in a Detroit suburb soon can turn on taps and uncork bottles, but the booze won’t freely flow.

The Oak Park City Council voted Monday night to allow restaurants to sell beer and wine by the glass. The city of about 29,000 people north of Detroit with a long-established community of orthodox Jews has prohibited such sales for six decades.

Mayor Marian McClellan, who sought the change since her election in 2011 as a way to revive the city’s business district, called it a “historic day.” She sought to assure critics by adding officials won’t consider “requests for topless activity” and only restaurants deemed “assets to the community” will get the licenses.

The measure says up to 20 restaurants would be allowed tavern licenses and only 10 currently qualify. They must be 500 feet from any school, park or house of worship. The establishments also must have at least 50 seats, 10 food items, limit income from alcohol to half of total sales and stop selling it after midnight.

Eligible restaurants still can’t sell spirits or mixed drinks.

Residents voted to make Oak Park dry in 1945 and affirmed the stand in 1954, 1966 and 2005.

Aaron Tobin, who is running for council, told the Detroit Free Press that the decision was “horrible” and he would work to repeal it. Residents could bring the issue back to the ballot box if they gather 3,500 signatures, and City Manager Erik Tungate believes opponents have about 3,000 right now.

Zeana Attisha, who co-owns Sahara Restaurant & Grill, credited officials for responding to the concerns of business owners. Still, she’s collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would let restaurants sell hard liquor.

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission said Oak Park had been the largest of 248 Michigan communities to ban sales of beer or wine by the glass, The Detroit News reported.