Carmel committee OKs creation of riverfront districts to obtain more liquor licenses 

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Several city officials are hoping to give a boost to local restaurants and future economic development by creating four riverfront districts, in which the number of liquor licenses would be unlimited. 

The Carmel City Council’s finance, utilities and rules committee voted 4-0 Dec. 1 in favor of creating the riverfront districts. The city council is expected to have a final vote on an ordinance creating the districts at its Dec. 7 meeting. 

The number of alcohol permits in each city is determined by the state, and Carmel does not have any more available. Restaurateurs wishing to obtain a permit may purchase one from another business owner, but it typically comes at a steep price. 

“At some point with that markup it becomes cost prohibitive for the small businesses to get it, so if we want to encourage more mom and pop small businesses I think increasing the amount of permits does help as opposed to when it gets so expensive only the big boys can have them,” city councilor Adam Aasen said.  

City councilor Sue Finkam said she recently heard of an alcohol permit in Carmel on the market for $75,000, which is cost prohibitive for many business owners. 

“We’ve had some frustration with some of those (restaurateurs) wanting to come to our community not being able to get permits that are affordable,” Finkam said. 

The proposed districts are generally south of 146th Street west of the White River (Legacy River District), along North Range Line Road between Main Street and 146th Street (North Range Line Road River District), south Range Line Road between 116th Street and Main Street (South Range Line Road River District), and along Michigan Road between 96th Street and Weston Pointe Drive (Crooked Creek River District).

Only the Legacy River District is along a river. The other districts are along smaller bodies of water, such as creeks. Other municipalities in the state have successfully created riverfront districts along these types of areas.

In addition to being located near water, state law requires riverfront districts be located within an economic development or redevelopment area and that improvement projects in the area are funded at least in part with state and city funds.

Any business within a riverfront district may apply for an alcohol permit through the state’s Alcohol & Tobacco Commission regardless of how many others are issued in Carmel. City officials hope the riverfront districts will boost economic development in all of Carmel, as some of the city’s set number of permits could be used in areas not in a riverfront district. 

Carmel Redevelopment Commission Director Henry Mestetsky said he and Carmel Director of Engineering Jeremy Kashman worked together to create boundaries for the proposed riverfront districts, which include many of the city’s commercial nodes. If approved, he said the districts will help put Carmel on a more level playing field with some of its neighbors. 

“This entire (problem) exists because the State of Indiana limits liquor licenses, and then places like Noblesville or Fishers get to have unlimited liquor licenses in their downtowns but a place like Carmel and its growing central core doesn’t,” Mestetsky said. “I don’t think we’ll be creating more alcoholics. People have been drinking for quite awhile. What we’re creating is, ‘Let’s make some of those drives a little shorter. Instead of driving to downtown Noblesville, let’s have them stay here instead.’” 


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