What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to the city’s new entertainment district in Uptown, there’s a lot.
While the name may conjure up images of the Las Vegas Strip for some — as mentioned at the Tuesday, April 11, Sedona City Council meeting — it’s far from that.
Arizona state law restricts issuing retailers’ liquor licenses for certain businesses within 300 feet of a school or church.
A city report states that these restrictions apply to operations such as tasting rooms and package retail, which are common uses found in a visitor-based commercial district such as Uptown. Both the Wayside Chapel and the Christian Science Society are in Uptown and within 300 feet of several commercial properties.
Council, which appreciated concerns it received at the meeting from representatives of the Christian Science Society, voted unanimously to approve the new entertainment district.
Based on Sedona’s population, the report says that the council may designate one entertainment district within the city and on a case-by-case basis, approve an exemption to the 300-foot distance requirement within the district. Cities with a population of more than 250,000 can have additional districts.
State statutes define an entertainment district as:
n A specific contiguous area of no more than one square mile in area and no less than one-eighth of a mile in width.
n Contains a significant number of entertainment, artistic and cultural venues, including music halls, concert facilities, theaters, arenas, stadiums, museums, studios, galleries, restaurants, bars and other related facilities.
Businesses such as restaurants and hotels are exempt from the state’s 300-foot law.
Staff proposed that the boundaries of the Sedona Main Street and Character Districts generally serve as the entertainment district, with a few exceptions.
“Some areas would be excluded as they do not meet the statutory one-eighth mile width requirement,” the report states. “The total area of the proposed entertainment district comprises about three-quarter square miles. The future Land Development Code will further refine and define this district and the boundaries.”
“The perception seems to be that we’re going to turn this into a row of saloons — or something like that — all of a sudden because we’re going to call it an entertainment district,” Councilman John Currivan said. “It’s my understanding that is will not allow anything in Uptown that’s not already allowed, except within that 300-foot radius.”
Staff confirmed his understanding of the law.
Community Development Director Audree Juhlin said this issue came to light when owners of a new wine bar requested to open in the Sinagua Plaza, across the street from Wayside. But, because it’s within 300 feet of a church, it couldn’t open under the current law. However, state officials said that a way around that would be to create an entertainment district.
Councilman Joe Vernier said he’s confident that business owners and special event hosts, who sell alcohol in various capacities, will continue to be responsible for the safety of their patrons and focus on what’s best for Sedona.
“I don’t believe that we’re opening a door to significant or major problems with alcohol and turning this into some danger zone from where it’s being served,” he said. “Special event venues are tightly controlled, have strong security requirements, servers have to be trained and quite frankly, I think they’re less of a threat to public safety than other kinds of licensed liquor establishments.”