City changes liquor license ordinance

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 25, 2016

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — A new Italian market and eatery planned for Harper Avenue just north of 11 Mile Road may become a “destination” in the city, according to City Council members, but only because council voted to change its ordinance to allow a venue with fewer than 150 seats to apply for one of the city’s remaining three liquor licenses.

The city’s ordinance stipulated that only businesses that have 150 seats or more, or smaller businesses that invest more than $40,000 into renovations when the city also holds more than six liquor licenses that it has not issued to other businesses, may be granted licenses.

But because the city only has three licenses left to give, Gaudino’s on Harper Avenue would not be able to apply for a license, which owner Thomas Amato said is central to the success of his business, without a change in the ordinance.

A proposal was put before City Council May 2 to lower the minimum seating from 150 to 100, which would accommodate Gaudino’s. 

Councilwoman Candice Rusie, however, asked why they wouldn’t just change the section of the ordinance that allows a smaller business to apply if the city has a certain number of licenses available to a smaller number than six. 

“Take out that requirement (and) we would still be allowing smaller businesses to apply — they would just have to make the investment,” she said, noting that Gaudino’s is obviously spending more than $40,000 on the building. She said she was afraid the city would be inundated with requests for the few remaining liquor licenses if it simply lowered the seating requirement.

The ordinance, however, has other restrictions that must be met in that case, including the fact that the business would have had to be operating continuously in the city for at least five years before applying.

“If we do that (change the number of licenses held), you have to strike all of this,” Mayor Kip Walby said. “Even if you go down to the lower amount, you have to meet all of these requirements, which they won’t meet them.”

Councilman Peter Rubino pointed out that 100 seats is still “a pretty good-sized place.”

“I’m actually comfortable with that amount for all of them because I would like to see some more unique-style establishments come here,” he said. “I would rather see something really unique and different that’s going to attract people here.”

He said the only difference is that the city may have to start saying no to some businesses that request a license once it has just a couple left to give.

“What we’re going to be looking for is something that’s special and unique going forward, because it’s going to take a lot to get those last two,” he said. 

Councilman Peter Accica also pointed out that bigger venues can still bring in a liquor license from outside the city. 

Council voted 5-2 to change the ordinance requirements from 150 seats down to 100 seats, with Rusie and Councilman John Caron opposed.