Tasting room at Como’s wins close approval from Ferndale council

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published June 18, 2019

 Traverse City Whiskey Co. hoped to open in late spring, but a 2-2 vote at the Ferndale City Council’s May 13 meeting delayed the approval into the end of the season.

Traverse City Whiskey Co. hoped to open in late spring, but a 2-2 vote at the Ferndale City Council’s May 13 meeting delayed the approval into the end of the season.

Photo by Mike Koury

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FERNDALE — In a 3-2 vote, the Ferndale City Council approved a liquor license for a company to open a tasting room inside Como’s Restaurant.

At its June 10 meeting, the council approved an off-premise spirit tasting room for Traverse City Whiskey Co. inside a space that previously was operated by Como’s, 22812 Woodward Ave.

The approval allows Traverse City Whiskey Co. to “sell a bottle of spirits for consumption off the licensed premises, and would allow the sale of drinks by the glass for consumption on the premises and/or samples of the spirits,” according to city documents.

The liquor license previously came before the council at its May 13 meeting, but the vote was 2-2, so the motion failed.

City documents state that Traverse City Whiskey Co. will employ two full-time employees and five to six part-time employees and have interior seating for 60 patrons, which includes 18 seats at the bar. The proposed hours of operation will be seven days a week from 4 p.m. to midnight, though hours might change based on customer demand.

Kelly Allen, an attorney representing Traverse City Whiskey Co., stated that her client applied for the license almost a year ago during a time when, under state law, an off-premises tasting room did not require local approval. In December of last year, the Michigan Legislature made a change in a lame-duck session that requires local approval.

“I think it’s really important for you to see what this applicant has gone through for one year’s time and never knowing that this was going to change,” she said.

In the council’s discussion, concerns were brought up in relation to how this business might increase parking due to the potential demand of the business and about adding another alcohol establishment to Ferndale’s downtown.

Mayor Dave Coulter, who missed the last vote, said the city still has a problem with the number of liquor establishments in town and its ability to handle them with the current parking capacity.

My gut tells me that this whiskey bar is going to have a lot more people than the folks that used to straggle into the other side of Como’s, where most people were on the patio or the diners inside,” he said. “I think it is going to intensify the number of patrons in that space, and as a result, at least until ‘The dot’ is done being constructed, I’m not in favor of the application.”

Luckily for Traverse City Whiskey Co., Councilwoman Raylon Leaks-May, who voted against the license at the May meeting, changed her vote, passing the application along with Councilwoman Melanie Piana and Mayor Pro Tem Greg Pawlica.

“I’m going to change my mind — for this time only — because (Traverse City Whiskey Co.) started … before it went through lame duck,” she said.

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