Council misguided in its treatment of downtown food-and-drink establishments - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Council misguided in its treatment of downtown food-and-drink establishments

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Posted: Saturday, June 24, 2006 7:24 am | Updated: 4:10 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The City Council’s preoccupation with micromanaging downtown Scottsdale continued this week, with a local bar owner ending up in a political no man’s land. Council members considered their version of the city’s reputation to trump the reanimation of the area, which has largely occurred via the marketplace.

Despite no opposition at Tuesday’s council meeting, the nod from city staff and a unanimous recommendation for approval from the city Planning Commission, the council rejected a special-use permit for Next Lounge & Nightclub, 7111 E. Fifth Ave. Council members want Next to be open during the day and they are concerned the club doesn’t sell quite enough food to qualify for a city permit to operate as a restaurant and bar.

Oddly enough, earlier that day, a bill was sent to Gov. Janet Napolitano that would lower a restaurant-and-bar’s minimum food-sales requirement from 40 percent to 30 percent of total income. House Bill 2621 allows only up to 15 establishments per year during the next two years to apply for the lower food-sales rules, its primary sponsor, state Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, told us Friday.

If the governor signs it, the council ought to reconsider its decision on Next, and any other establishment similarly situated, to give it the chance to apply. Meanwhile, the council’s overgeneralized belief that downtown somehow has “too many bars” or “not enough daytime uses” ought to be tempered by realities.

They include the high quality of these establishments, their willingness to get along with neighboring businesses and their contribution to a vibrant area that is enhancing, not detracting from, Scottsdale’s national reputation and luring big-spending residents and visitors.

Next remains open pending some resolution of the situation, but other establishments seeking restaurant-and-bar permits are warming up in the city’s permit bullpen: Salty Señorita, Blue Agave and Loco Patron.

Loco Patron, 4228 N. Scottsdale Road, will go before the Planning Commision on July 12, its attorney, Court Rich, told us Friday. Rich said his clients, as well as owners of other downtown eating-and-drinking places, have made substantial investments in an area that has in part flourished due to their presence. Loco Patron’s food sales have been averaging 37 percent, he said.

“This is crazy. This is a great local small business success story that has animated Scottsdale Road. Now, Scottsdale is thinking of boarding it up,” Rich said. “Loco Patron should not be next.”

Or, Next.

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