City Gives Schuler OK For A Liquor License

July 16, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — City commissioners approved the third of a potential 2,539 special Class C liquor licenses that could be issued to downtown businesses last week, as they gave Schuler Books Inc. the OK for serving liquor at the company’s downtown store at 40 Fountain St. NW in the former Steketee’s Department Store.

The licenses are officially known as the Redevelopment Liquor License, which state lawmakers created two years ago for dining, entertainment and recreation businesses situated in areas that have been designated as development districts, such as downtowns. The city established its RLL policy in March 2007, which gives existing businesses top priority.

“Our hope would be that we might be able to expand our hours in the evening. Right now, traffic is light then,” said Bill Fehnsenfeld, who owns Schuler Books with his wife, Cecile.

A license costs $20,000, about a quarter of what an escrowed license goes for, and approval is based on the amount of investment a business within a development district makes in its location. Currently, the minimum investment is $75,000 over a five-year period.

With all the investment that has been made in the Central Business District over that time, Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Jay Fowler said more than 2,500 licenses could be issued in the sector.

“Grand Rapids could have 2,539 (licenses), according to the law,” he said.

Schuler Books has a café in its downtown location and regularly holds literary and musical events in the store.

“A number of community members have expressed an interest in the sale of beer and wine at our downtown Grand Rapids location. This additional option will enable us to remain competitive with the well-established businesses in the downtown development district,” said Cecile Fehnsenfeld.

Commissioners also have approved a Redevelopment Liquor License for Ritz Koney Island at 64 Ionia Ave. SW and Big O’s Café at 80 Ottawa Ave. NW.

Mayor George Heartwell favored giving Schuler Books a license because he said the store wouldn’t be competing with downtown nightspots for the bar business. But Heartwell also cautioned that commissioners had to keep a close eye on issuing these licenses.

“We surely don’t want them going out like candy,” said the mayor.

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission also has to approve the application from Schuler Books.

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