(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 16, 2013)
With one councilperson absent, and one voting “no” City of Oak Park officials voted 3-1 Monday to allow restaurants in their city to serve beer and wine.
Since Oak Park was incorporated in 1945, its Charter had prohibited the serving of alcohol in a glass. But as the city struggles to attract investment and local restaurants struggle to attract customers, Oak Parkers who are thirsty for a change are glad to see the prohibition come to an end. There is even talk about putting the sale of liquor on the ballot, which would require a citizen vote.
Oak Park was one of only four cities in Michigan that is “dry.” With a population of 29,319, it was by far the largest. According to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s Nov. 2012 report, Sylvan Lake, Lake Angelus City and McBain are the other dry cities, along with about 230 townships scattered throughout the state.
The ordinance calls for restaurants to prepare and serve food at all times. The restaurant must be able to serve a minimum of 40 guests at a time, and must have at least ten food items available for purchase. There can be no admission fees or cover charges. In any given 90-day time period, restaurants cannot have more than 50% of their income be in alcohol sales. And lastly there could be no sale of alcoholic beverages after midnight.
The ordinance also includes multiple “review procedures” and “review factors.” including zoning requirements, certification by the director of public safety that the Licensee is of “good moral character,” input from readers and surrounding business owners, the number of similar Licenses in the city, size of bar area, and “overall benefit of the plan to the City of Oak Park.”
Additional permits would need to be obtained for dancing, monologues, dialogues, motion pictures, still slides, closed circuit television, contests or other performances for public viewing. No nudity or topless activity would be allowed. Game devices are also prohibited.
Bringing open-serving of alcoholic beverage sales to Oak Park is many years in the making, with this most recent push being led by Sahara Restaurant (2770 Coolidge) owners Saad and Zeana Attisha who reached out to Mayor Marian McClellan after her election.
“When Mayor McClellan had her swearing in, she and her supporters wanted to go out for dinner and drinks to celebrate. They came here because they didn’t want to go outside of the city, but they couldn’t even have a toast,” Zeana said in a previous interview.
“People just want to be able to come in here and have a drink with their meal. We have many many loyal customers, but on Friday nights, it’s dead. On Valentine’s Day, it’s dead. Not everyone who drinks is out to party. A lot of people want to be able to go out and have a nice time and have a drink with their meal.”
Attisha is also working to gather signatures to put the issue of liquor on the ballot. Similar votes have failed four times in the past.
Some residents are unhappy with beer and wine sales being allowed in their city. According to The Daily Tribune, Aaronn Tobin who is running for City Council in November said “Oak Park is known as a family city. We don’t want it known as the city where you come to get drunk and have a good time.”
For more information visit the City of Oak Park website at http://www.oakpark-mi.com/index.html.
To read our previous story about the beer and wine debate, see https://oaklandcounty115.com/2012/12/08/thirsty-for-change-could-oak-parks-dry-days-be-numbered/.