04/27/08 — Council considers downtown bar, eatery business

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Council considers downtown bar, eatery business

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on April 27, 2008 2:01 AM

Goldsboro officials take into consideration a number of factors when deciding whether to approve a business that serves alcohol. Proximity to neighboring homes and businesses and the establishment's effect on them is something that both the city Planning Commission and City Council consider when making their decisions.

The council held a public hearing Monday on a request by Jeff Darwin for a conditional use permit to open a tavern and deli at the corner of East Walnut Street and North John Street.

City officials categorize establishments that serve alcohol four ways: bars that serve food, restaurants that serve alcohol, places of entertainment and nightclubs, city Planning Director Randy Guthrie said.

"It just all depends on what percent of their business is food sales," he said.

Guthrie said the state considers a business that takes in about 30 percent of its total sales in food as a restaurant, but Goldsboro city officials look at it a little more evenly.

"We really think more 50/50," he said.

If a restaurant that serves alcohol decides to have a band play, it becomes a place of entertainment, he noted.

"Say like the (Flying) Shamrock, they sell a lot of food and might have sold enough to be OK to be considered a bar that sells food, but they have live music, so they are a place of entertainment," he explained.

The Flying Shamrock on John Street is currently the only place of entertainment in what is considered downtown, but the council approved a conditional use permit for another -- Redmon's on Center Street -- earlier this month.

Torero's restaurant, the Koi Asian Bistro and Pupetta's restaurant are defined as restaurants that serve alcohol, Guthrie said. There are presently no establishments considered nightclubs downtown, he said.

Is the fact that those businesses that serve alcohol are all located within close proximity to one another considered a bad thing?

Guthrie and Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Director Julie Thompson don't think so.

"I think it's a good thing in that it brings people downtown," Guthrie said. "The market will determine if we need more of that or not, but I don't foresee us placing a limit on it."

Mrs. Thompson said it's a new experience to have so many restaurants and bars downtown.

"It's the type of thing you have in college towns," she said. "Now, we're not a college town, but you need to be able to have enough of those establishments to have a magnet to attract people."

She said she is hoping people will say, "Let's just go downtown and figure out where we'll go when we get there."

And she agrees that the marketplace will determine how many food and alcohol establishments will come into the downtown area and how many will stay and be successful.

"One of the things we need to be careful of is keeping a good mix downtown," she said. "We need to have commercial, retail, dining, cultural and entertainment. All of those have to mix and live in harmony, and so far, I haven't seen anything that doesn't."

That doesn't mean that every request for a permit to open a business that serves alcohol will be met with approval.

Henry Battle applied for a permit to operate a place of entertainment without alcohol permits on South James Street recently and was turned down.

The council first denied Battle's application to open a place of entertainment with alcohol permits several months ago. He came back with a plan that did not include alcohol sales. But neighbors spoke against the proposal at a public hearing and the council denied Battle's request.

How do city officials decide on what is permissible and what isn't?

Their criteria includes whether the intended use for the property will be a danger to the public health or welfare, whether the use will damage the use of adjoining property, if the use will be in harmony with existing development and if the use conforms to the Comprehensive Downtown Ma-ster Plan.

"Basically that means that we want to make sure we don't put a commercial business in a mostly residential area or that we don't put a bar next to a church," Guthrie said. "We also look at things like is there a bad intersection there or is there ample parking space or does the customer have to cross the road to enter and exit the business."

For Battle's proposed use of the South James Street property in particular, city officials didn't believe there was ample parking space and did not consider the use to fit in with the mostly residential neighborhood.

"Certain places just lend themselves to things better," Mrs. Thompson said. "I don't think you can blanket (a particular use) to one area."

A big part of the City Council's decision is based on neighbors' feelings about the proposal.

"When you buy a home and you make that kind of investment, you are buying the area around it, too," Mrs. Thompson said. "That's the kind of place to me that a bar doesn't fit in. I mean, I wouldn't want to have one behind my house."

Other factors include the recommendations of the state ABC Commission and the city fire and police departments.

Before making a recommendation, they perform background checks to ensure the public's safety and base their recommendations on that, Guthrie said.

"There are a lot of things that go into this," Guthrie said. "The council has to consider many things when they make their decision on these conditional use permits."