Alcoholic beverages may be served at the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza, the Lawrence City Commission decided Tuesday.
The commission on Tuesday approved exemptions sought by the Chelsea Group to the city code's prohibition on alcoholic consumption on city property. Chelsea, the mall's developer, sought the exemption so that a restaurant within the center could serve liquor.
The city commission also approved Chelsea's request for an exemption for the adjacent "Consolidated Barbed Wire Company Drawing Mill" building. Both buildings sit on city-owned land.
The exemptions were approved, 4-1, with Commissioner David Penny opposed. Penny said he didn't think the restaurant's success depended on whether alcohol was allowed.
But Linda Geren, whose lease with Chelsea gives her exclusive rights for food and beverage sales at the mall and the barbed wire building, said she's planning a full-service food court.
BESIDES a number of fast-food shops, Geren, who is an owner of two local restaiurants, S.C. Pomeroy's and the Casbah Cafe, said she wants to offer mall-goers a sit-down restaurant with table service "and all the amenities," including alcoholic beverages.
Jim Lucas, a Chelsea representative, said that backers of a plan to save the barbed wire building would have to work out an arrangement for lounge and food service facilities with Geren.
Two local artists, Mike Elwell and Ron Miller, said this week that they want to fix up the old building and convert its interior into a sculpture garden surrounded by artisan shops and entertainment areas. The artists indicated that a major source of revenue for the project could come from food and beverage sales.
Commissioners could have refused to grant the liquor exemption until Chelsea pressured Geren to allow such an operation in the barbed wire building, but didn't.
"We have a lever that we really don't want to use," Mayor Bob Schumm said.
SCHUMM said city officials mainly want to make sure that the old structure is preserved and put to some productive use.
"We are very interested in what happens to the barbed wire building," Commissioner Shirley Martin-Smith said.
Commissioners asked Chelsea not to eliminate any options that might generate income for the renovation of the barbed wire building.
Lucas assured the commission that the mall developer is committed to preserving the building.
Chelsea is studying the artists' plan, Lucas said, but has asked for more information.
"It's in the very preliminary discussion stages, as far as we're concerned," he said.
In any case, Lucas said all of the questions surrounding the proposal won't be answered until the mall opens. Some individual outlets are expected to open by late March, and the grand opening is planned for sometime in April.