Some could get liquor permit

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ironton may have reached its quota for liquor licenses, but that may not stop some local businesses from getting one. Confused yet?

It’s all part of the twisting maze of liquor license law, which, while intricate, could include an exception that will provide economic benefits that are easy for anyone to figure out.

Some planned restaurants which could be headed to the area, like a Buffalo Wild Wings and an unnamed establishment in the Depot building, could benefit from a special license for cities in Ironton’s situation.

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First, a little background on liquor licenses is in order. The number of permits issued is determined by a town’s population, in Ironton’s case, around 11,330. The two classes for retailers are C (1 per 1,000 residents, and meant for carry-out) and D (1 per 2,000 people, designed for on-site consumption.)

Things get trickier from there, as each class has separate licenses that allow for the sale of different sorts of liquor (like beer and wine versus hard spirits) and different times it can be sold. The practical upshot is that Ironton is allocated 26 carry-out permits, and 30 for restaurants, bars and lodges … and they’re all gone.

Bill Dingus, chairman of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce said that permitting issues like these are pretty common when trying to bring in new businesses to any area.

“You know, any time that you deal with economic development, there are barriers to overcome,” Dingus said. “Sometimes it slows you down, and that’s an area you just have to work in and make happen.”

Lucky for Ironton (and hot wings and fine-dining fans from all over) there are exceptions to these rules. The one that may save the day in this case is a special class of license called the D-5i, which is exempt from quotas. But Matt Mullins, a spokesman for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, said that it’s not right for every business.

“The D-5i has all the same privileges, but there are some space requirement, you have to have seating for 140 persons,” Mullins said.

The state doesn’t just check seating, but also square footage, and how much money is spent where. Business with a D-5i must have a ratio of no more than 25 percent alcohol sales to 75 percent food sales.

“It’s pretty narrowly defined, but I guess the idea in creating that was to that permit available for restaurants primarily, people interested in making more of their money from food sales,” Mullins said.

Dingus said that the investors in the Depot are investigating the D-5i permit to see if their project falls within the barriers. But even as he works to overcome to liquor policies, he cautions against painting them as the enemy.

“They’re good, they’re not bad, I don’t ever want to look at these barriers and challenges as being bad,” Dingus said. “For the good of the cause, the overall concern, this is not bad.”