Traverse City DDA Looks At Possible Changes for Liquor License Process

Concern from some local restaurants has the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority looking at their liquor license process.

Last week, the Downtown Traverse City Association voted unanimously to increase the $75,000 investment requirement for redevelopment liquor licenses to $150,000.

Friday morning, the DDA discussed the proposal.

9&10’s Caroline Powers and photojournalist Jeremy Erickson have more details on how it would impact downtown.

“When I was a little kid I just wanted to cook and own a restaurant, and just been working hard over the past 20 years to make that happen,” says John Larson, owner of Mama Lu’s.

John Larson says when he finally took the steps to open up his own restaurant, he knew he wanted to do it in downtown Traverse City.

“We did lots of vacationing throughout the summers here in Traverse City and I saw the market,” Larson says. “There’s nothing compared, in my option, to downtown Traverse City in the summer time. Foot traffic, pedestrian traffic is out of control.”

He says one of the big reasons Traverse City pulled him in was their redevelopment liquor license program.

“We chose to use the redevelopment program because it was a more economical aspect, or process for us. We had just enough capital to do the whole project and that fit into the budget nicely,” says Larson.

The redevelopment liquor license program allows new businesses to purchase a liquor license at a lower price.

They also have to invest at least $75,000 in redevelopment for their space, but a proposal has been made to increase that redevelopment price.

“It’s really to address concerns about are there too many of these licenses being issued,” says Rob Bacigalupi, executive director of the Traverse City DDA.

One of the reasons that the DDA is looking at these possible changes is so that there continues to be a healthy balance between restaurants and retail in downtown.

“We don’t want to discourage more restaurants,” Bacigalupi says. “It’s just we want to kind of check in with the program and just see is it working well. Are there some things we could tweak.”

The DDA is continuing to collect more information before making a decision on the proposal.

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