WELLSVILLE - Members of the Wellsville Council Property Committee met Monday evening with the co-owners of the Riverside Roadhouse to discuss ways to move forward with a proposal to create a revitalization district in the village, which would, in turn open the door to their application for a new liquor permit.
Attorney Nick Barborak, who is representing Riverside Roadhouse co-owners Bill Reed and Eric Smith, also attended the meeting, explaining what they have accomplished so far in attempting to shepherd the effort along.
Reiterating his comments from a recent council meeting, councilman Tony Cataldo told Reed and Smith that council's concern isn't with what might occur if the Roadhouse gets its sought-after D-5L liquor permit, which would allow the establishment to serve wine and spirits. Mayor Susan Haugh agreed, saying, "We want to see this happen for them."
They said their concern is what might happen in the future if the Roadhouse were to close down and some less responsible party purchase the business and take over its permits.
Barborak, who also serves in the state House of Representatives for the 5th district (Lisbon), explained that the D-5L permit is only open to establishments located within revitalization districts, such as that being contemplated by village council via a D-6 provision of the Ohio Revised Code.
Council must seek a D-6 permit from the state Division of Liquor Control toward the creation of that revitalization district because the village's population-determined quota of liquor permits has been exhausted. An unknown factor is the status of permits held by establishments that have recently closed or been shut down, such as Joe's Bar and Grill this past February.
Haugh and council members have publicly stated that their intention is to entice restaurants that sell wine and spirits with meals into the village, not allow for bars to proliferate through town.
To ensure that D-5L permits are given to businesses that aren't based on liquor consumption, as with a bar, the establishment must be able to demonstrate that at least 75 percent of its revenue comes from the sale of food.
Barborak emphasized that the drive for the creation of the district is separate from Reed and Smith's pursuit of a D-5L liquor permit. Their ability to seek that permit from the state, however, is dependent upon the creation of the revitalization district.
The approval of a D-6 would not automatically green-light the Riverside Roadhouse's D-5L application. Reed and Smith would need to provide business records, Barborak says, as well as submitting to background checks, as part of their licensure process, which would be subject to council's review.
"It's not a done deal. It certainly requires some hoops to be jumped through," Barborak said. "What this does is it opens up the door for the possibility of that to happen."
Once a revitalization district is established, state law allows only one D-5L permit to be issued for each five-acre parcel within the district. The size of that potential district has yet to be determined, however. Based on statements made in previous council meetings, Reed and Smith paid to have a survey done of a zone extending from the Riverside Roadhouse on Wells Avenue Extension to Fifth Street.
Since then, Haugh has expressed interest in having the entire village designated as a revitalization district due to the influx of people she believes will be drawn into Wellsville by economic projects currently in process, such as the Marathon gas terminal project at the southern tip of Clark Avenue. The theory is that, with just a handful of small restaurants currently operating in the village, new establishments would follow that influx of workers into Wellsville.
Haugh also stated that once a revitalization district has been approved by the state, it cannot be revised. Better then to apply for that designation of the entire village, since council can only speculate what end of town would see development if and when the new restaurants, hotels and other establishments arrive. "You can do this once and one time only," she said. "You cannot go back and say, 'Okay, let's make this bigger.'"
Property committee chairwoman Rosie Goss, whose term on council and the committee ends Jan. 1, told Reed and Smith that she backs their efforts and will do whatever she can to see it through. "You guys are doing good, and we don't want to lose you," she said.
Cataldo pointed out that, with the loss of Goss and Tonda Ross, both of whom lost their bids for re-election this year, a new pair of council members will need to be brought up to speed on the issue before any steps can be taken beyond researching the law, such as the feared transferability of liquor licenses, and deciding just how big they want the revitalization district to be.
Cataldo, who owns Tony's Place on Third Street, would be recused from voting on the measure due to his personal business interest. However, he shared his experience with liquor licenses at the meeting and stated that he, like the rest of council, want what's in the best long-term interest of Wellsville.