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Coffee Ethic approved for liquor license

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Coffee Ethic LLC, 124 Park Central Square, was granted a liquor license through an unopposed resolution passed by members of the Springfield City Council at its April 4 meeting.

One councilman, John Rush, abstained from the vote, saying he could neither stand against the resolution nor support it.

“It’s preposterous to me,” Rush said, adding that he didn’t see what purpose the ordinance served because “churches have virtually endorsed” the right of businesses to sell liquor near them.

Coffee Ethic needed to seek the consent of City Council to receive its license due to an ordinance that requires establishments within 200 feet of churches and schools to do so. Nearby neighbors Missouri State University, which has offices on Park Central Square, and Journey Church, 214 W. McDaniel St., were said to have submitted letters of approval on behalf of Coffee Ethic.

Rush said in a phone interview that the issue has come up several times in his two years on the council, and in each case, the business seeking the license had prevailed even when there was opposition.

“The council doesn’t ever seem to have a way to say 'no' to anybody who wants to sell alcohol near a school or church,” Rush said. “I’m not going to vote against something where everybody played by the rules, so abstaining is just my way of protesting against an ordinance that nobody seems to want to acknowledge. We’re just wasting our time, and the people who have to do it are wasting their time, too.”

The resolution passed by a 8-0-1 vote.

Coffee Ethic co-owner Jim Hamilton deferred all questions to partner Tom Billionis, but Billionis did not respond to requests for an interview before deadline.

Potential concerns regarding the open walkway between Coffee Ethic and the Park Central Branch library were not addressed at the council meeting.

City Attorney Dan Wichmer said that the Coffee Ethic license only pertains to its premises, which means that under state law, patrons would not be allowed to take alcoholic beverages into the adjoining library.

According to the resolution, the applicant applied for a license “to sell liquor by the drink at its location at 124 Park Central Square.”

John Schmidt, assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County Library district, said Coffee Ethic reached out to the library when it first considered seeking a license to discuss potential issues. He said the library has a general-conduct policy in place that does not allow tobacco, alcohol or other controlled substances on library premises.

“Anybody enjoying the Coffee Ethic would not be able to bring their alcoholic beverage into the Park Central Branch Library. At this point, I don’t think we have any major concerns about our conduct policy or about the ability of either party to enforce that,” Schmidt said, adding that the library has a long relationship with the coffee shop, and he feels that both parties would just need to educate patrons about the library’s policy.

For more on the April 4 Springfield City Council meeting, look to the April 11 Springfield Business Journal print edition.[[In-content Ad]]

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