Proposal could strip 18th and Vine churches of right to block nearby KC businesses’ liquor licenses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The plan to redevelop Kansas City’s 18th and Vine Historic Jazz District could pit people who enjoy wine and spirits against followers of the Holy Spirit.

The current ordinance says any business that wants to engage in retail sales-by-drink liquor has to get approval from any church or school within 300 feet of it.

Brandon Dixon found out about the ordinance after he purchased a building near the corner of 18th and Vine. It's just down the street from other jazz clubs. He planned on opening a daiquiri bar next to his diner, Smaxx.

Brandon Dixon

Grace Temple Pastor Demean Ellis said he blocked Dixon's liquor license along with another applicant. He said he often finds liquor bottles on his church’s front steps.

“My stance is I don’t support things like that because I have to stand and give an account one day, and I don’t want the parishioners to think it’s OK to go out and do things like that and drink," Ellis said.

That stance frustrates Dixon.

“Think of how many people have come down here on the Vine with an idea and were told you can’t get a liquor license," Dixon said. "I’m not going to change my dream. I’m just going to change the area of where I do business at."

Worried the ordinance is hindering development at 18th and Vine , Kansas City's Alcholic Beverage Advisory Group will consider a proposal Monday to take away churches and schools say in surrounding liquor licenses in the district.

Grace Temple Pastor Demean Ellis

Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed said he worked on the city proposal. It could make its way to the Kansas City Council for a vote with or without the advisory group's approval.

“Businesses are wanting to come to the district and all the entertainment that continues to take place, and we want to continue to build on that real excitement and momentum happening in 18th and Vine District," Reed said.

Reed said he planned to work with at least four churches in the district on development plans going forward. Ellis said he hadn't been advised of the proposed changes involving 18th and Vine churches.

“They put the law in to protect, and now they want to take that away, and who suffers is the church," he said.

Hoping to recreate the images of 18th and Vine nightlife on his walls, Dixon said he’s moving forward with construction of "Velvet Freeze." Like Smaxx, it's a reference to a historic Kansas City diner or ice cream shoppe. But he's doing so without the liquor license he’ll need to operate.

“Just like he is, we are going on faith also and believing everything will work out," Dixon said.