Montrose, CO – City councilors are debating whether to opt out of an existing state statute that prohibits alcohol from being served for "on-premise consumption" within 500 feet of a school campus as that boundary can limit where new businesses and restaurants are able to open.
Any business wanting to serve alcohol must apply for a liquor license, which is reviewed and voted on by the City Council. Froggy's taco shop is under construction next to the new Coffee Trader on South Fifth Street. The building sits just within the boundary of Montrose High School.
The issue of Froggy's opening has allowed councilors and the city attorney's office to revisit the policy.
Earlier this year the owner of Froggy's went before the council seeking approval to sell beer and wine in his restaurant. Froggy's is seeking a hotel and restaurant license, which is different from a retail liquor license – for a liquor store for example – or a tavern or bar license that allows a business to sell hard alcohol as it's primary means of revenue.
Right now, with boundaries in place for Northside and Pomona elementary schools and Montrose High School, options for opening a new restaurant in downtown is limited.
Froggy's would like people the option to enjoy beer, wine or a mixed cocktail with their meal. The owner assured the council that Froggy's would have a strict policy against serving minors and keep alcohol away from minors who may work in the restaurant.
On Monday councilors returned to the issue to find a balance between protecting children from alcohol while encouraging economic development in the downtown area. In 2014 councilors opted not to change the ordinance for a business that applied for a hotel and restaurant license near Montrose High School.
Not only does the boundary prohibit alcohol sales and consumption with 500-feet of a school, the boundary also any athletic field tied to a school.
Montrose City Attorney Stephen Alcorn told councilors they have the ability to "shrink or eliminate altogether" the boundary to accommodate new businesses like restaurants. Another option Alcorn mentioned was to keep the boundary in place for bars and liquor stores, but modify the boundary for businesses seeking a hotel and restaurant license.
City Councilor Barbara Bynum said restaurants should have the freedom to open anywhere in town.
"By virtue (of this ordinance) we are limiting where restaurants can go. We ought to allow restaurants to sell alcohol in those areas," Bynum said. "It's hurting us in an economic development perspective."
The council then turned to Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn for his perspective on alcohol enforcement.
"We are going to do our jobs, (this) boils down to the business owners," Chinn said, stating the owners of businesses serving alcohol near a school have a duty to prohibit alcohol from coming into contact with minors.
Chinn said any business that serves alcohol near a school may be subject to more scrutiny by the police department.
Councilors will continue the debate at a future work session.
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