Riverfront district gets liquor

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The Riverfront Redevelopment District. (Source: City of Noblesville)

The Riverfront Redevelopment District. (Source: City of Noblesville)

By Navar Watson

Noblesville residents soon won’t have to trek to Hamilton Town Center to get a margarita, now that downtown restaurants can apply for liquor licenses cheaper than ever before.

The Common Council established a Riverfront Redevelopment District June 9, and now the area has an unlimited number of three-way liquor licenses from the state. The state distributes liquor licenses based on population numbers, and the creation of a district allows for an unlimited amount.

Several downtown restaurants own two-way licenses, allowing the sale of beer and wine, but the three-way license includes beer, wine and liquor.

Despite the unlimited number from the state, the Common Council decided to cap off the number of three-way licenses at 10.

Chris Owens, director of Main Street Noblesville, said limiting the number is “probably a pretty direct effort to make sure that we won’t become something we’re not.”

“I don’t think the city intends for us to be a bar destination area,” Owens said. “It’s more tourism centric.”

Five restaurants within the Riverfront District already hold three-way licenses, which they had to purchase through the open market. This method can cost a business owner tens of thousands of dollars.

The district licenses, however, cost $1,000 – the state permit fee. Once a business decides to apply, the city must provide a letter of support from the mayor. There are no additional fees.

Alaina Shonkwiler , city economic development specialist, said this will benefit smaller businesses that can’t compete with chain restaurants in the open market, like those at Hamilton Town Center.

“[Chain restaurants] have the funds usually to compete for those open market three-way liquor licenses,” Shonkwiler said. “This will help minimize the barrier for the mom-and-pop restaurants that we’re more inclined to want in our downtown.”

The district license, however, comes with one major regulation: it cannot be sold or transferred outside the district.

Noblesville submitted its first liquor license application near the start of the month. Shonkwiler estimated the district would have six businesses with new three-way licenses by mid-2016.

Some establishments, like Courtney’s Kitchen, are upgrading from a two-way to a three-way in order to serve margaritas and other alcoholic beverages at breakfast.

Owens said he thinks this development will be complimentary to downtown Noblesville, opening up the potential for more dining options with the completion of the Federal Hill Commons project.

“What [this]really does is just allow us to add restaurants,” Shonkwiler said. “We’re not trying to add bars where they’re not serving food or adding entertainment and cultural experience to the district. The goal is to enhance the district with restaurants.”

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