Delivering Exceptional Services

Special: Amended Alcohol Ordinance Explained

City Council approved amendments to the city’s restaurant with alcoholic beverages (R-AB) ordinance. In this question-and-answer segment, find out exactly what the changes mean for residents, visitors and businesses. Charles Anderson, city attorney, and Steve Reed, assistant director of development services, collaborated on providing the answers

Explain the city’s restaurant with alcoholic beverage (R-AB) ordinance in layman’s terms?
The ordinance has four main components. First, it requires that any restaurant wishing to sell alcoholic beverages must first be approved by the City Council through a zoning case. Second, the ordinance regulates the amount of alcoholic beverages a restaurant can sell compared to how much food it sells. Until Jan. 24, the ordinance required that a restaurant selling alcohol must receive at least 60 percent of its total revenues from food and could not exceed 40 percent of its total revenues from alcohol (the “60/40 rule”). As of Jan. 24, the ordinance was changed to allow the majority of restaurants to increase their alcohol sales ratio to no more than 50 percent of their total food and alcohol revenues, and to allow restaurants in the Las Colinas Urban Center to increase their alcohol sales ratio to no more than 70 percent of their total food and alcohol revenues. The third main component of the ordinance is a requirement that restaurants selling alcohol must submit semi-annual reports to the city showing their percentage of food and alcohol sales to ensure compliance. Fourth, restaurants must maintain a 300-foot distance requirement to churches, schools, hospitals and residential uses or seek a variance from the City Council.

How was it decided to impose a more relaxed restriction on the Las Colinas Urban Center?
The decision to allow a different restriction in the Urban Center was based on the city’s desire to see the area develop as a destination with more restaurant options and other attractions. This area already has a unique set of development requirements calling for higher density residential and commercial projects, and the additional provisions for alcohol sales is simply one more element of those unique standards. Particularly since the opening of the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas, the need to provide more options for convention guests has become more apparent, and developers seeking to bring new projects to the Urban Center were unanimous that the previous alcohol restrictions were a significant impediment to their efforts.

From a development perspective, what can residents expect to occur as a result of this amendment to the city’s alcohol ordinance?
We anticipate that the amendment will spur new restaurant development in the Urban Center, and attract high-quality restaurants to all of the city.

Council voted in favor of the amendment to the R-AB ordinance in a 7 to 2 vote; why wasn’t this issue put on the ballot for residents to decide?
The regulations for alcohol sales are contained within the Zoning Ordinance. The Zoning Ordinance only can be changed by the City Council. State law does not allow a Zoning Ordinance to be amended by a public vote.

Does the amendment make it easier for bars to legally operate in Irving?
No. Even within the Urban Center, requiring a minimum food ratio of 30 percent still requires an investment in a full kitchen, a kitchen staff and regular reporting. So, traditional bars that sell little or no food will not be able to operate in Irving. Testimony at the public hearing stated that bars operate at a ratio of at least 90 percent alcohol, significantly more than what Irving would allow.

Many assume that the regulation of alcohol sales is out of the city’s jurisdiction. How has Irving managed to regulate alcohol sales?
While it is true that most municipal regulations for alcohol sales are pre-empted by the state, city ordinances adopted prior to June 11, 1987, are “grandfathered” and may continue to be enforced. The City of Irving ordinance originally was adopted in 1981, so it is grandfathered. In addition, the ordinance was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court in 1999. The city can amend the ordinance to be less restrictive, but cannot make it more restrictive.

Posted March 6

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