A proposal at the Statehouse that could allow more bars and restaurants to sell alcohol in Greenwood and Bargersville also includes a multi-million project in downtown Indianapolis.
Under the bill, Greenwood, Bargersville, Martinsville and Munster, located in northwest Indiana, would all be allowed additional permits for new restaurants and bars to sell alcohol. State law only allows so many permits to be issued, based on a community’s population. Bargersville has no available permits, and Greenwood is out of the permits that allow restaurants or bars to sell beer, wine and liquor — which are the most popular permits.
Supporters of the bill also slipped a downtown Indianapolis $260 million mixed-use development project, known as Bottleworks, into the legislation to support a proposed 30,000-square-foot food hall with about 20 vendors. Many of those likely will want to sell alcohol, but privately sold permits can be expensive, costing up to $100,000. The state would charge $40,000 for each permit that would become available from the Senate bill.
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The legislation passed the full Senate earlier this month, and last week was referred to the House Committee on Public Policy.
Local officials say the permits are needed to promote development that’s been stymied under the state system that allocates permits based on population as measured under the U.S. Census every 10 years. The lag is especially problematic for fast-growing communities. When a community hits its cap, the only way a business can obtain a permit is to purchase an existing one from a current permit-holder.
Growing cities and towns with no alcohol permits turn to the General Assembly for relief, instead of waiting until the next census.
“I think the underlying issue is going to be, how can we start addressing this without the Legislature coming back every couple of years?” said Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, and one of the authors of the Senate bill. “It’s really difficult when a city is trying to bring new businesses in.”
In Indianapolis, the proposal is also of interest because the change would help remove challenges for the Bottleworks project. The project would restore large parts of the former Coca-Cola bottling plant at College and Massachusetts avenues. Plans call for apartments, condos, office space, a cinema and other attractions spread across 1.2 million square feet. Jeff Bennett, the city’s deputy mayor of community development, wrote a letter to Sandlin asking Bottleworks to be included in the bill.
“Redevelopment of the former Coca-Cola bottling plant represents the culmination of 25 years of work to revitalize the Massachusetts Avenue corridor in downtown Indianapolis,” Bennett said in the letter. “It’s a concrete example of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rehabilitate an iconic campus of historic buildings, remediate and repurpose a brownfield site, and rebuild our urban tax base.”
Vendors in the food hall would operate under a single permit, so they wouldn’t have to buy them separately, and would have a management agreement with the permit holder. An additional five permits would be available throughout the rest of the complex.
The Senate bill also allocates five permits for Bargersville, five for Martinsville and 10 permits each for two economic development areas in Greenwood around downtown and along State Road 135.
In 2016, state lawmakers granted additional alcohol permits to suburban communities in Hamilton and Boone counties. Carmel, Fishers and Westfield, Lebanon, Whitestown and Zionsville received four alcohol permits each.
Fast-growing Whitestown has two of its four permits left. But with two large retail projects in the works, town officials chose to conduct a special census in 2016 to secure more permits. The three permits Whitestown received as a result of the special census already have been sold at auction. At least 15 restaurants want permits before they’ll commit to coming to the town, officials said.
The state legislation restricts the added permits to designated economic development or redevelopment districts. In Greenwood, the two districts encompass downtown, where plans are underway to reinvigorate the city’s core, and the area along State Road 135 from Stones Crossing Road south to Whiteland Road.
Greenwood wants to create a commercial and residential hub in the area known as Old Town, the city’s core — mostly contained to the intersection of South Madison Avenue and West Main Street — by adding 450 apartments and 130 town homes within 10 years, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said.
“A lot of these major restaurant owners depend on alcohol,” Myers said.
“They’re not even going to consider building until they know there are permits available.”
Here is a look at what the legislation says:
Allows the alcohol and tobacco commission to issue additional alcoholic beverage restaurant permits to the economic development area, redevelopment district, or economic revitalization area in Munster, Bargersville, Martinsville, and Greenwood.
Allows the alcohol and tobacco commission to issue retailer’s permits for two types of licensed premises within a bottling district in a consolidated city as follows:
- A three-way retailer’s permit for a designated food hall containing multiple food and beverage vendors.
- A three-way permit for an owner or lessee of a building in the bottling district that contains retail store space.