Council votes on liquor license for forthcoming Village sushi restaurant

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 9, 2017

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GROSSE POINTE CITY — Fans of sushi will soon have a new place to dine.

Koi Nu Asian restaurant is moving into 17043 Kercheval Ave. in the Village, which formerly was home to Caribou Coffee.

City Planner John Jackson, of McKenna Associates, told the Grosse Pointe City Council during a July 17 meeting that this would be “an Asian restaurant with sushi” that will be open for lunch and dinner. Because the City no longer has any of the so-called “quota” liquor licenses available, he said owner Tony Dao hoped to take advantage of a liquor license option available through the state. Dao, a Sterling Heights resident, is a former sushi chef for Blufin Sushi in Grosse Pointe Farms.

“Additional licenses can be granted by the state if (the applicants) can demonstrate substantial development in the city,” Jackson said.

The idea is that such licenses should be offered because they can “create vibrancy” in downtowns, he continued.

“It’s a carrot to encourage reinvestment in buildings,” Jackson explained.

He said Dao was seeking an Economic Redevelopment C liquor license, which like the standard Class C liquor license allows for the sale and on-site consumption of beer, wine and alcohol. The difference from a regular Class C license, Jackson said, is that an ER license can only be issued for businesses in a defined business district, such as those in a downtown development authority; the Village has a DDA. An ER license can’t be transferred, said Jackson, noting that if the business relocated, a new business at that address would need to apply for its own liquor license or transfer in one from elsewhere.

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission has a series of requirements for ER licenses, including mandating at least $75,000 worth of investment in the building and demonstrating that at least $200,000 worth of public and private investment has been made in the business district within the last five years. Jackson said this business meets those requirements.

Because the restaurant is less than 500 feet from a school — in this case, it’s about 400 feet from Maire Elementary School — Jackson said that becomes a factor in state approval.

“This does not preclude you from approving the license,” he told the council. “In fact, that’s what we recommend you to do.”

Jackson noted that there are other Village restaurants that serve alcohol that are likewise less than 500 feet from Maire, and these haven’t been problematic. If school officials had any objections, he said, they would be able to voice those with the Michigan LCC, which would take those into account when considering the application.

Besides the ER Class C liquor license, Jackson said Dao had also applied for an SDM license, full Sunday sales and a catering permit. With an SDM license, Jackson said, customers would be able to purchase a sealed bottle of beer or wine to take home.

The SDM license is important, because if the restaurant holds a wine tasting, for example, participants at that event could purchase a sealed bottle of a wine they liked and take it home with them, said Dao’s attorney, Seth Tompkins. Otherwise, they could only take home an open bottle of wine left over from a meal.

“It’s not for packaged spirits,” Tompkins said. “It’s just for beer and wine.”

He added that the license, if used at all, would most likely only be used for wine.

Jackson said the owners “are hoping to (open) as early as September,” but that depends on state approval of the liquor license.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the restaurant’s liquor license request, making their approval subject to state officials approving the liquor license, but City Attorney Chuck Kennedy told the council that condition wasn’t necessary.

“It’s going to be subject to the approval of the state regardless of what you say,” he said.

Jackson said the roughly 2,600-square-foot restaurant is expected to have 70 seats — 40 at tables, 13 at the sushi bar and 17 in a rear bar area. Planned hours of operation are 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. seven days per week, although he said the owner might reduce operation to six days a week after the first year, depending on how busy the restaurant is.