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High hopes, worries for 18th & Vine after KC Council ends church veto power over liquor licenses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- City leaders and stakeholders hope for a revitalized 18th and Vine District now that a new ordinance has passed.

The ordinance will allow liquor licenses to be issued at places within 300 feet of churches and schools. Before, churches could veto liquor licenses at those businesses. With the new ordinance that ability is gone.

Bayou On The Vine is 323 feet from the nearest church, making it exempt from the old veto powers. Co-owner Chuck Byrd said with churches' veto powers now removed, more businesses will move in, and 18th and Vine will be a more competitive area.

"Taking that component away from an entertainment district is going to greatly impact the overall ability for it to grow," Byrd said.

There are a few other 18th and Vine businesses that are outside the 300 foot limit and already sell alcohol.

Kansas City has a three-phase, $27 million project to revitalize 18th and Vine.  With so much invested in the area, Byrd says it was time for the church's veto powers to be removed.

"You can walk in and have dinner and have a drink, or you can not have a drink," Byrd said. "And so it's choice. It's your choice to do it,"

But Pastor Demean Ellis Sr., who preaches at the Grace Temple Nondenominational Church, said booze won't fix the district's problems.

"This is an already impoverished neighborhood, and the last thing that it needed was to have more alcohol added to the equation," Ellis said. "There are different things that happen in the wee hours of the night because of certain places."

To get a liquor license under the new ordinance, businesses will need consent from a majority of nearby property owners, including churches and schools.

For Ellis, that's not enough say.

"To take away the voice of the church, especially in this day and age, is a very horrible thing to do," Ellis said.

Businesses that get new liquor licenses will have six-month probationary periods.  If they violate the terms of the license, it will be taken away.