Introductory Comments by Mike Andrzejak and Chuck Semchena
What is the saturation level of alcohol establishments in our city?
The volume of alcohol that flows in our downtown, and the residual effects and cost to our community is a complex issue. The debate has heated up again in recent years. The rambunctiousness of the Downtown came to a head in the late 90's, and fortunately, was calmed, because the City of Royal Oak had the police resources, the legal resources, the monetary resources, and political will to combat the issue. Decision makers recognized the problem, analyzed solutions, and took action. A liquor license transfer moratorium, along with stronger laws and enforcement was utilized by the City Commission.
Since then, police resources have been greatly reduced. Our legal resources have been more than cut in half. The General Fund is projected to be empty within 12 months. Yet, the necessity for public safety service in the Downtown has grown tremendously, because current decision makers continue to expand the City's liquor license inventory.
Inexplicably, majorities of recent commissions have greatly expanded the bar seating in the Downtown. Thousands of restaurant/bar seats have been added to the Central Business District. These decisions were against the recommendations of the current and past police chiefs and run counter to the vision and goals of the City's Master Plan, a municipality's primary planning document.
In a series of articles, we will address the following and more:
- A history of the Liquor related problems in the 90's. Will history repeat itself?
- Exceeding the Liquor license quotas, increasing the size of bars, and expansion of alcohol service instead of food service.
- The Big Lie – More bars create taxes, jobs, and growth when a city is already oversaturated with bars.
- The fixation on alcohol is killing, or has killed retail.
- Commission Decisions that are at odds with the Master Plan, planning experts, and law enforcement.
- Decisions made by a Commissioner's personal preference, but without any support, evidence or data. Licenses being approved because "They have a good track record.", or “They have lamb chops on today’s menu."
- How crime and policing in neighborhoods is affected by bar patrons bad behavior in the downtown.
- The hidden cost of too much liquor to our community
- Inner ring neighborhood problems and abatement.
- What is Royal Oak's alcohol saturation level?
- What about the rest of the City, outside the downtown?
Mr. Semchena and I, have a long and consistent record on voting against adding more liquor
licenses to Royal Oak. We supported the City's Master Plan, recommendations of all police chiefs, and planning experts. We voted to develop our downtown so that it could become like Birmingham’s. We wanted it to be compatible with the rest of our family friendly City, and to allow for limited police resources to allocated in all four corners of the city.
As former city commission members, Chuck Semchena and I are very respectful of the overall job and challenges that face the current City Commission. We also have been, and will continue to be completely committed to serving our hometown with the goal of seeing Royal Oak flourish and thrive. We are cognizant that many of the restaurants in the downtown still operate in a manner that causes little problem to the police. These restaurants complement the other business in the downtown and are a critical part of an economically sustainable mixed use district. These restaurants employ people and help provide jobs.
We also recognize that things change dramatically, after dark, and progressively become more public safety demanding the later it gets, in the Downtown. This is when most of the problems occur. Calling this an Entertainment District is not accurate. Late at night it becomes a Drinking District, with all the associated problems. Most importantly, all of us need to recognize that the bar district is less than half of a square mile, and that most of our City is comprised of homes, residential properties and other types of businesses. We cannot keep up with expending such a highly disproportionate amount of the city’s limited resources for the benefit of only a few. In land mass, the Downtown represents around 1/25th of the city. The Downtown is roughly 1/2 square mile of Royal Oak's 12.5 square mile land area.
Our goal is to present a series of papers that will initiate a focused, respectful, and civil community discussion on the many consequences of saturating the downtown with liquor licenses, and how it impacts the quality of life in our community.
After thorough consideration of all the information presented, and community input, it is our hope that the following transpires as a result of us presenting this analysis to this city issue:
- That the City Commission can clearly articulate and quantify the benefits received, and the costs or negative consequences to a city oversaturated with liquor licenses.
- How many additional licenses, expansions of capacity and permits that allow restaurants to turn into bars will be granted?
- That the Mayor and each commissioner articulate where their saturation level is and how they intend to pay for the additional public safety costs. One more license, 10 more licenses, or 100 more?
- At the very least, if the city commission continues to expand liquor service in the downtown, then, they need to have a revised plan developed with community involvement. They need to address amending the Master Plan and disclose who will be asked to pay the costs for additional public safety.
- Is it time to impose a moratorium from the commission table, as was done in the 90's?
We look forward to presenting our findings.