Carmel considers creating riverfront districts to obtain more alcohol licenses, spur economic growth


The Carmel City Council is considering the creation of four riverfront districts, a designation that allows for an unlimited number of alcohol permits within the districts’ boundaries.

Sue Finkam

At the Nov. 16 city council meeting, Councilor Sue Finkam, who sponsored the ordinance outlining the new districts, said a challenge in luring new restaurants in some areas has been the lack of available alcohol permits. State law distributes a limited number of alcohol permits based on population. Carmel received four additional permits from the state in 2016, but the final one was used in 2019.

Any business within a riverfront district may apply for an alcohol permit through the state’s Alcohol & Tobacco Commission regardless of how many others are issued in Carmel.

“I think that would be good for economic development,” Finkam said.

The proposed districts are generally south of 146th Street west of the White River (Legacy River District), along North Range Line Road between Main Street and 146th Street (North Range Line Road River District), south Range Line Road between 116th Street and Main Street (South Range Line Road River District), and along Michigan Road between 96th Street and Weston Pointe Drive (Crooked Creek River District).

Only the Legacy River District is along a river. The other districts are along smaller bodies of water, such as creeks. Other municipalities in the state have successfully created riverfront districts along these types of areas.

“It’s very clear small bodies of water qualify,” Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said.

In addition to being located near water, state law requires riverfront districts be located within an economic development or redevelopment area and that improvement projects in the area are funded at least in part with state and city funds.

Brainard said Indiana code governing alcohol permits is dated and that he’d like to see the legislature update the law to let the free market decide how many establishments selling alcohol should exist in a certain area.

“This is a regulation that’s been left over from the prohibition era almost 100 years ago and needs to be removed,” Brainard said.

The council’s finance, utilities and rules committee will discuss the proposed ordinance at a future meeting. A date had not been announced as of press time.