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Sunday liquor sales sought

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There is a small movement afoot to allow Sunday liquor sales and consumption in the downtown business district, which could significantly affect village restaurants and also local nonprofit organizations. The local option issue is one for the November ballot that needs approval from a majority of registered voters in the village to allow businesses in the downtown precinct to sell liquor on Sundays.

Local residents Roger Reynolds and Kipra Heerman are spearheading the effort to get the local issue passed. Both contribute to several nonprofit groups in the village and have a keen interest in developing more diverse ways for those organizations to raise money. And one of the best ways to do that is to have a party, they said.

Sunday is a prime day for fundraising events, especially for nonprofits, said Heerman, whose job it was to fundraise for several large organizations in California. It’s a day when many restaurants and other venues are past their prime weekend business and have room to consider hosting an event. And Sunday is also a day that many participants and potential donors are free to attend a fundraising type of event.

In an indirect way, to attract people and create a lively atmosphere or invoke a sophisticated tone for discerning palates, alcohol is often expected to help complete the scene, Heerman and Reynolds said. But chiefly, it is the alcohol sales that can boost restaurant profits and in some cases justify keeping an eating establishment open on an otherwise slower weekend day, several Yellow Springs restaurant owners said last week. And if the restaurants are open, either they funnel people to and from the fundraising events, or they can play host to the events themselves.

Sunrise Cafe owner Brian Rainey welcomes wholeheartedly the idea of being able to offer wine and cocktails to his Sunday brunch and dinner guests. Sunrise does a good bit of business Sunday nights because it is one of the few restaurants in town that is open then. Though he can’t serve alcohol, Rainey allows his customers to “bring your own bottle,” and many take advantage of that. If he were able to sell it himself, however, he could do 10 to 20 percent more business on Sunday nights, he said last week. Rainey expects he would be inspired to think up clever mimosa specials for Sunday brunch, too. And he would never again be faced with the catastrophic horror he saw two years ago when New Year’s Eve fell on a Sunday, and all he could offer was a Coke Classic.

Ever since that night, Rainey has intended to try to extend his alcohol license to include Sunday sales, but as a small independent business owner, chef and father, he has not had time to devote to that not-so-simple task.

“It would be an all-around good thing for me,” he said. “We don’t have the kind of crowd that gets rowdy, they just want to come in and have a cocktail or glass of wine with their meal.”

For Winds Cafe owner Mary Kay Smith, having the ability to sell wine and liquor on Sundays would open up options for her restaurant, which currently closes after Sunday brunch at 2 p.m. Though she is legally able to sell beer still on Sunday afternoon, the average Winds patron is more likely to order a cocktail or wine with their meal. And if she could sell stronger alcohol all day on Sundays, the Winds would not only be more profitable for brunch, but it would also make it more financially feasible to host special events such as a wine and beer garden for Blues Fest Sundays, or rent the space for a wedding reception, as she was asked about recently. The Winds might also stay open for dinner the nights of the Chamber Music Yellow Springs concerts, which occur five times each year, always on Sunday evenings.

Local restauranteurs also believe that being able to serve alcohol on Sundays would draw more people to the village, period, if they knew they could stay for a meal with a glass of wine. Other entertainment/dining/shopping areas nearby, such as those at the Fairfield Commons Mall in Beavercreek, already offer wine and cocktails on Sundays. Employees from both Don Pablos and Fox & Hound restaurants at the mall serve beer after noon and wine after 1 p.m., and both stay open until 10 p.m. or later on Sundays. Those establishments could be drawing from patrons who might otherwise come to Yellow Springs on Sundays, according to Kathy Christian, who owns Ye Olde Trail Tavern.

The Tavern is able to serve beer in the afternoons, and though the restaurant closes at 6 p.m. on Sundays, Christian would like to be able to serve the full spectrum of what she offers when they are open.

“It would help because in most of the other towns you can get whatever you want,” she said. “Customers gripe about not being able to drink on Sundays when they come here for the day — and it doesn’t mean they’ll come back on a Sunday again, either.”

For Smith, the effort to change either her own license or get the ballot issue passed is not worth the trouble unless, as in this case, it serves to promote and support the village and the downtown as a whole, she said.

But the change won’t happen automatically. To pass the issue, villagers must first get the issue on this year’s ballot by collecting 181 signatures from registered voters in the village, which represents 35 percent of the gubernatorial vote. Greene County Board of Elections recommends up to three times as many signatures as required in case some of them are found to be invalid, according to deputy director Lynn McCoy. Once the signatures are submitted to the board by Aug. 20, the issue needs a simple majority to pass.

Heerman began circulating a petition last week that asks signatories to agree to put on the ballot the following question: “Shall the sale of intoxicating liquor, of the same types as may be legally sold in this precinct on other days of the week, be permitted in this Yellow Springs Village Precinct 442 for consumption on the premises where sold, between the hours of one p.m. and midnight on Sunday?”

Precinct 442 encompasses most of the downtown and areas east of High Street, north of Herman Street and south of Dayton Street. The precinct does not include the businesses on the north side of Dayton Street, such as the Gulch and Chen’s Asian Bistro. It would affect the Winds, Sunrise, the Tavern, Williams Eatery and Peach’s Bar & Grill. Even if the issue passes, all restaurant owners must still apply for a change in their own liquor licenses and get approval from the Ohio Liquor Control Board before they can legally serve on Sundays, according to Eli Yaich at the liquor board.

Having the ability to include alcohol in fundraising events could help other businesses and nonprofits in the village as well. The Little Art Theatre has been talking about hosting an Oscar Night party, which could be tied to the visual element on the big screen, Heerman said. The theater could also host film and food/wine events such as one Reynolds attended in California when a theater screened the wine lovers movie Sideways, and tied it to a nearby wine tasting event showcasing the same wines the movie referenced.

YS Kids Playhouse has often hosted curtain warmer fundraisers with wine and appetizers, which could occur on Sundays if the law were changed. And CMYS is certainly in favor of increasing entertainment possibilities on Sunday nights to attract bigger audiences to its Sunday concert series, CMYS president Jeff Huntington said.

“On the question of Sunday alcohol sales, there is an important synergy between CMYS and the fine restaurants of Yellow Springs,” he said in an e-mail this week. “Anything that helps them thrive or enables them to be open on Sunday makes it easier for us to attract an audience from out of town.”

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