Lawrence City Commission approves changes allowing retail, other shops the ability to sell alcohol

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

City leaders are allowing for more flexibility on what types of businesses can sell alcohol, at least temporarily.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously to approve several changes to the city’s development code that allow more businesses in downtown and other commercial areas to sell alcohol, though only as a secondary aspect of their business. Specifically, the changes allow retailers and other commercial shops in downtown, not just restaurants, to sell alcohol as long as alcohol sales were less than 45% of total sales, among other changes. The changes would initially be in effect until the end of June 2021, and then could be reevaluated.

Commissioners expressed support for the temporary changes, saying they would help businesses in the downtown and elsewhere be more flexible and adapt to challenges they are facing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Vice Mayor Brad Finkeldei said he saw the changes as a good development, and that being able to sell alcohol along with other goods or services could make business activities more viable.

The code changes arose from a request by Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, which has filed plans with City Hall to add a coffee bar to the operations of its downtown store. Dan Hughes, an owner of the store, told the commission 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.

Interim Planning Director Amy Miller said the temporary period would allow the city to study the effects of the changes and determine whether they should be made permanent or whether adjustments needed to be made. Miller said the city was also considering additional changes to give businesses more flexibility in the wake of the pandemic, and those changes would be coming to the commission for consideration soon.

City Commission 05/19/20


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