Laugh Comedy Club is now officially designated as a restaurant and not a tavern. (Photo by Zach Dietmeier/WJBC)
BLOOMINGTON - Downtown Bloomington won't see any new alcohol-based establishments in the immediate future.
The city council unanimously approved a six-month ban on new licenses submitted after Monday, which allows the Laugh Comedy Club to switch from a tavern license to a restaurant qualification. Alderwoman Karen Schmidt sees the moratorium as an opportunity to nuture what she calls the good busniesses downtown.
"I wouldn't want to set in motion anything that would move them out of downtown," said Schmidt. "It also has the safeguard of having the liquor commission hearing and the city council hearing."
The council first voted to approve Laugh's restaurant license, calling it a step toward the long term vision for the downtown.
"In this particular case, the commission has tried to put safeguards in that would assure that the restaurant doesn't revert to solely a tavern late at night and therefore add strain to the late night situation," said Bloomington Mayor Steve Stockton, who doubles as the chairman of the Bloomington Liquor Commission.
Stockton said the council and the liquor commission have long pushed for more business like the comedy club. The council wants to transition away from what they call "hard bars" in the downtown area.
Schmidt, whose ward contains the downtown area in question, said the continuing work by City Manager David Hales and his staff wins her support for the moratorium.
"I think if we were only doing this in isolation without the work that David will be digging into in the next few weeks, it wouldn't have the substance that I think is at the real heart of the issue," Schmidt said.
The council heard three different scenarios ranging from an absolute moratorium to a tavern only ban. They chose a halt that will allow businesses the flexability to renew, relocate, or change ownership.
Stockton said the Laugh Comedy Club made the decision easy on the Bloomington Liquor Commission and the city council.
"The licensee has been very cooperative and has indicated that it is there intent to run a restaurant and a comedy club, and they do not want to run a tavern at that location," said Stockton.
Stockton added that Six Strings Club could still move to a new location in the future if it chooses, but changes to the moratorium could come at any time, too.
The moratorium will last until the newly elected council takes their seats on May 13, 2013.
Zach Dietmeier can be reached at email@example.com.