As it turned out, mid-March 2020 was not the ideal time to launch a new restaurant.
Rose & Lois opened at 7249 E. 146th St. a day after Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered in-person dining to halt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, immediately forcing owner Rachel Priddy to completely rework a business strategy months in the making.
But nearly a year later, the timing couldn’t have been better to grow the cafe’s offerings, as Rose & Lois became the first Carmel business to apply for a liquor license in the city’s newly created riverfront districts.
State law limits the number of liquor licenses in municipalities based on population, and Carmel had maxed out years ago. The licenses can be transferred, but their scarcity made the price unaffordable for many business owners.
So, in December 2020, the Carmel City Council approved four riverfront districts, areas adjacent to bodies of water where the number of alcohol permits are uncapped. Less than two months later, three Carmel businesses have applied or are in the process of applying for a liquor license in the districts. According to city officials, joining Rose & Lois are Roma Italian restaurant in the Monon Square shopping center and the yet-to-open Wahlburgers at the Proscenium.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said he’s “extremely encouraged” to see local businesses take advantage of the new opportunity.
“Without the riverfront districts, the system is very unfair to small, locally-owned restaurants,” Brainard said. “This levels the playing field.”
After fighting “tooth and nail” to survive its first year in business, Priddy expects the liquor license, which must still be approved by the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, to give the cafe a boost.
“Having this come up as an opportunity is something that is very helpful for us,” she said, adding that she hopes to begin serving the new drink options by April 1.
Priddy said she was initially nervous about announcing that Rose & Lois had applied for the permit, but she said response has been positive.
“I didn’t want people to think we were trying to become a bar overnight, but I think it’s really exciting how many parents would love to unwind with a glass of wine or espresso martini,” she said. “It’s still within our brand to be classy about the way we do it.”
The riverfront 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).