Duluth wants more debate on alcohol ordinance

DULUTH -- The Duluth City Council stopped short of voting Monday to allow Duluth residents and visitors to purchase beer and wine from additional restaurants in the downtown business district in specially marked cups for consumption on the Town Green. The council wants to discuss the issue further.

By a vote of 4-0, the council directed City Attorney Lee Thompson to draft a measure expanding the zone where beer and wine can be sold and consumed downtown for review at its Sept. 27 work session and to include appropriate restrictions.

Only Steverino's and Park Cafe, which abut the Town Green, are allowed to sell beer and wine during city-sponsored special events, such as concerts, for consumption on the green. Attendees may also bring their own alcoholic beverages.

The proposal would allow Chocolate Perks, located across Main Street from the Town Green, to do so, too, or any other restaurants licensed to sell beer and wine that open in the future on Main or West Lawrenceville streets or obtain the required licenses.

The idea to allow drinking alcoholic beverages from the special cups, similar to River Street in Savannah, was conceived as a way of encouraging people to stay in downtown Duluth after dining and to

window shop.

The city's Alcohol Review Board had rejected allowing the practice on weekday evenings and after noon on weekends and recommended limiting it only to the city-sponsored special events.

"Right now, we didn't feel there was enough activity downtown," said Alcohol Review Board Chairman George Rhode. "If other restaurants and more stores open up," he said, "the issue could be revisited."

Councilman Jim Dugan expressed concern about public safety with people drinking and crossing the streets.

The council did approve a special-use permit enabling the New Dawn Theater downtown to apply for a license to sell beer and wine to patrons.

Councilwoman Marsha Anderson Bomar, who owns Chocolate Perks, recused herself from discussing and voting on the restaurant and theater alcoholic beverage matters.

The council voted 4-1 to allow beer and wine to be served to business groups and family reunions who rent Pavilion 1 at Rogers Bridge Park with the approval of the city's parks and recreation department.

The city attorney was directed to draft operating procedures for serving beer and wine at the pavilion to be reviewed by the council during the work session. Councilman Greg Whitlock cast the opposing vote. Groups would be required to hire an off-duty Duluth police officer to monitor drinking.

Whitlock said he objected to allowing alcoholic beverages in public city parks.

In other action, the council:

* Authorized City Administrator Phil McLemore to execute a contract agreement with Sky Design to proceed with Phase III of a city wayfinding signage program. The city has $13,200 budgeted for this phase.

* Awarded a contract to Ecological Systems in the amount of $59,770 to assist the city with establishing a stormwater utility. The city's 2011 tax bills will include a stormwater utility fee.

* Accepted a revised Buford Highway Corridor Study by Kimley-Horn & Associates that includes changes suggested by the City Council and staff.

* Awarded a contract to Sophicity Inc. in the amount of $15,800 to provide programming for online tax payment service. This allows customers to pay their city tax bills online as well as look up information on property taxes. The current provider had discontinued the service.