West Lafayette Council Expands Riverfront District, Liquor Licenses

Nov 6, 2017

The new boundaries essentially double the size of the city's district, but put more restrictions on which establishments may apply for a liquor license.
Credit Quinn Dombrowski / https://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/

The West Lafayette City Council approved plans Monday to set physical and operational boundaries for new businesses along the Wabash River.

The so-called “riverfront” district now expands past River Road, up State Street and along Fowler Avenue. The council voted to support applications for liquor licenses in the district so long as the business' sales are at least 67-percent food (i.e. not more than one-third alcohol) or it stays open no longer than from 11 a.m. to midnight.

First District Councilman Nick DeBoer says the new riverfront license gives business owners the option of opening an operation at the price of $1,000 and the mayor’s signature – as opposed to the $150,000 it can take to buy a license on the open market.

“It’s an opportunity for innovation and allows things that aren’t just chain restaurants to come into the area,” DeBoer says. “It seems unreasonable for somebody locally who can’t necessarily raise the capital to do something like that to open up a bar or restaurant.”

State law allows Mayor John Dennis to approve liquor licenses on the riverfront, but a letter of support from the city council is also required. The mayor has previously said more alcohol-serving restaurants would spread out crowds and make operations safer.

DeBoer says the goal is to promote more activity up State Street without encouraging Breakfast Club-esque activities.

“We’re not looking at some haphazard, or a lot of out-of-towners, coming in here and really taking advantage of this,” DeBoer says. “These are people that will be able to come and prove that, listen, we’re responsible in this community and we want to be a part of making sure that their drinking doesn’t get out of control, but that there’s an active nightlife that promotes a fun atmosphere.”

For bars and restaurants within the expanded area, it’s up to the owner whether to keep its current license or switch to a riverfront license. DeBoer says aside from operating hours, there’s an economic incentive to sell a three-way (beer, liquor, wine) license on the open market and adopt the much cheaper riverfront license.

The council passed the ordinance unanimously.