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Coffee Ethic receives liquor license

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Downtown coffeehouse Coffee Ethic LLC was granted a liquor license through an unopposed resolution passed by members of the Springfield City Council at its April 4 meeting.

Coffee Ethic co-owner Tom Billionis said he has had the idea to sell liquor at the 124 Park Central Square shop since before it opened in December 2007, but the company wanted to first focus on perfecting its coffee. The goal is to create a European-style coffeehouse, with a variety of drinks available, he said.

“With the surge in craft beer in the United States and the ever-popular wine industry, we thought those would be great additions to what we do,” Billionis said. “We’re not looking to change our atmosphere at all or come close to being anything approaching a bar.”

Billionis said Coffee Ethic would offer beers on tap and wine and beer in bottles, but he was not ready to say when the company would begin selling alcohol.

The resolution passed by an 8-0-1 vote. Councilman John Rush abstained, saying he could neither stand against the resolution nor support it.

A city ordinance requires council approval for establishments within 200 feet of churches and schools to receive alcohol licenses.

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

Nearby neighbors Missouri State University, which maintains offices on Park Central Square, and Journey Church, 214 W. McDaniel St., submitted letters of approval on behalf of Coffee Ethic.

Rush later said that the issue has come up several times in his two years on 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.”

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

Billionis said he intends to educate customers on the law, possibly with signage and closing the doors to the library should it become an issue.

“The coffee is to go; the beer and wine won’t be,” Billionis said.  

John Schmidt, assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County Library District, said a general-conduct policy in place does not allow tobacco, alcohol or other controlled substances on library premises.

“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.

General election
Springfield voters re-elected council members Cindy Rushefsky, Doug Burlison and Jerry Compton in the April 5 general election. Thomas Bieker of Midwest Environmental Consultants narrowly defeated Fred Ellison to succeed Mayor Pro-tem Dan Chiles, who did not seek re-election due to prostate cancer. Mayor Jim O’Neal ran unopposed.

Burlison secured Seat C with 62 percent of the votes, while Christopher Donegan, a former mayoral candidate, pulled in 38 percent. Bieker, a sergeant in the Missouri National Guard who ran on a pro-business platform, defeated Ellison with 54 percent of the votes for Seat D. The closest race was between Rushefsky and Jan Fisk, co-owner and chief financial officer of J. Howard Fisk Limousines, in Zone 2. Rushefsky won by 185 votes, for 52 percent of the votes. Compton received 68 percent of the votes in Zone 3.

Voters were nearly split on measures that banned smoking in public enclosed spaces and alcohol in family theaters, or those with more than 25 percent of customers under the age of 21. The smoking ban was favored by 53 percent of voters, while the alcohol initiative received 52 percent approval. The alcohol ban will impact the advertising and sale of adult beverages at only one business: Campbell 16 Cinema on South Campbell. The smoking ban, which goes into effect June 6, went before voters after the city was petitioned to put the issue on the ballot. In the event either measure is challenged, the city would be required to defend the voter-approved ordinances under law.

According to the Greene County clerk’s office, about 15 percent of registered voters participated in the April 5 election. 
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