Lawrence City Commission to consider permanently allowing retail, other shops the ability to sell alcohol

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

The main entrance for Sunflower Cafe is on Eighth Street, just south of Massachusetts Street. But the cafe also has filed plans with the city for a sidewalk dining area on Massachusetts Street for the cafe.

City leaders will soon consider permanently allowing more types of businesses to sell alcohol as a secondary aspect of their overall sales.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider adopting a code change that would permanently allow businesses other than restaurants in the downtown and other commercial areas to have an accessory bar. The commission adopted a temporary resolution that allowed the secondary sale of alcohol in May 2020, and that resolution will expire at the end of this month without further action from the commission.

Specifically, the changes allow retailers and other commercial shops in downtown and other commercial areas to sell alcohol as long as alcohol sales are less than 45% of total sales. Currently, only restaurants and hotels can have accessory bars, and a provision regarding alcohol sales downtown requires that businesses must generate 55% or more of their sales from food. A city staff report states the proposed change maintains the intent of the downtown rules, which are to prohibit additional bars from opening downtown beyond those that are already grandfathered in.

“The revised language is intended to preserve the intent of the current standard’s restriction on additional Bar or Lounge uses downtown while providing businesses other than restaurants the ability to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises,” a city staff report states.

Under the changes, other business types that could have an accessory bar include retails stores, indoor sports and recreation facilities, personal improvement services such as arts or yoga studios, and personal convenience services such as neighborhood convenience stores, drugstores, smoke shops, laundromats/dry cleaners, massage therapy services, and beauty salons and barbershops, among other uses. All businesses would be subject to the requirement of having alcohol represent less than 45% of total sales.

The code changes initially arose last year from a request by Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, which had filed plans with City Hall to add a café to the operations of its downtown store. Dan Hughes, an owner of the store, told the commission at the time that Sunflower’s focus would remain on retail, but that the café — and the ability to also sell alcohol at the café — would help support the longtime business.

The staff report states that Sunflower has been the only business to use the temporary resolution so far. Staff is recommending the City Commission approve making the change permanent.

The City Commission will convene virtually at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday with limited staff in place at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. Residents can participate in the meeting in person or virtually. A link to register for the Zoom meeting and directions to submit written public comment are included in the agenda that is available on the city’s website,


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.