For the second time this fall, the Baldwin Planning and Zoning Commission has voted to recommend that the city allow the Prairie Pioneer Dinner Train to serve liquor.
At Tuesday's meeting, the commission decided to stick with the recommendation it made to the Baldwin City Council in September, said Ralph Tanner, planning commission chairman.
The train has operated out of Baldwin for three years, traveling on railroad owned by the Midland Railway Assn. Dinner is served by Food, Glorious Food!, a Kansas City catering firm, during two-hour rides to Ottawa and back. The firm started selling liquor by the drink on the train this year, but later was told by the Alcohol Beverage Control division of the Kansas Department of Revenue that the business couldn't serve liquor with only a caterer's license.
THE TRAIN operates in an area zoned light industrial, and the city's zoning regulations specifically outline which businesses can operate in the area. Before the catering firm could secure a liquor license, the city would have to amend the regulations to allow a drinking establishment in the light industrial zone.
Whether to make the change has stymied the city council since July. Council members in August asked the planning commission to review the issue and research legal ramifications. The commission later recommended that the city amend the use regulations to allow the operation of a drinking establishment only on a dinner train. Such a restrictive amendment would keep the light industrial area free of other drinking establishments, commissioners said.
When the ball returned the city council's court, members came up with other legal questions and asked the planning commission to further research the issue.
"We believed when we sent our opinion up the first time that we had exhausted our resources, completed our research," Tanner said.
He said the commission decided Tuesday to reiterate its original recommendation. The decision is contingent on a response from Atty. Gen. Bob Stephan to a query from Jack Murphy, city attorney, regarding the city's options, Tanner said.
"IF THE attorney general's response sheds any new light, we would take it back," he said.
However, Stephan outlined his opinion on the matter in a letter to Murphy in August, and Tanner doesn't expect any new information to surface.
Tanner said the city council probably won't review the planning commission's recommendation Monday, but instead will wait until its meeting on Dec. 9.