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wealthytheatre

Wealthy Theatre, Planning Commission Nov. 8

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On Thursday, November 8, at 1PM, Community Media Center has a hearing scheduled with the Grand Rapids Planning Commission. We're first on the agenda. The meeting is to take place at 1120 Monroe Ave. NW on the 2nd Floor, Room 201, Public Hearing Rm A.

CMC is appearing before the Planning Commission as one of the final phases of approval for a Club License at Wealthy Theatre.

Technically, we're requesting a "PWA" which is a permit to allow for change of use. The change of use would be the acquisition of a permanent liquor licenses on premises, known as a Club License.

As you may know, a "Club License" is a relatively restictive type, issued by the state of Michigan to nonprofit organizations that have a membership base. It is used very successfully by a number of historic performance venues in the state, such as The Ark and Michigan Theatre (both in Ann Arbor).

However, there is a serious challenge to this PWA request: the Grand Rapids Police Department (Vice Unit) has denied the request and the head of the Vice Unit will be appearing, to formally object to our request. GRPD has not provided CMC with a formal explanation of... why they are denying this request. We only have second-hand details regarding one part of their objection: they do not feel it is safe for patrons to consume alcohol in a theatre with the lights dimmed.

We've also been told they would prefer Wealthy Theatre seek a "Class C" liquor license. However, our research into license types (which began in February, 2007) led us to discover a "Class C" license would effectively turn Wealthy Theatre into an open bar. City officials have confirmed we would be required to sell alcohol to everyone (21+) regardless of whether they were attending an event. This goes against our intentions for seeking a license, which was to provide a simple enhancement -- not to become a bar.

We spoke to experts, local theater owners, attorneys, and others: we were told a Club License would be the perfect fit. In fact, our attorneys advised that this license (Club License) was virtually written for us, it's exactly what we ought to have. And they would have made a lot more money by representing us to acquire a "Class C" or "Resort" license ("Resort" licenses are basically the same as "Class C" in effect, they're just issued differently and in more limited numbers). A "Class C" license can cost upwards fo $100,000 -- just ask the owners of The Meanwhile, down the street. And the insurance alone (with a "Class C" license) would have forced us to make alcohol sales our primary mission.

We simply want Wealthy Theatre to be appealing, sustainable and enjoyable. Our members and the community -- especially business owners and neighborhood organizations, all of whom have provided formal letters of support -- wanted us to do this. So we're doing it.

We've gotten through the state investigation, county health department, fire department, and now it's down to Planning Commission and City Commission. The formal denial by GRPD has been a huge blow, but tomorrow (Thursday, November 8) at 1PM, we're going to make our case. And hope for the best.

If you're involved with CMC or a friend of Wealthy Theatre, and you support this effort, we wanted you to know about the hearing. If you're opposed to it, please come out and let the Planning Commission know.

But the basic reality is this: if you'd like to attend an event sometime at the theatre, and you might enjoy the option to have a glass of wine while you enjoy the performance... this might be an important meeting for you to consider attending.

Cheers,

Erin Wilson, Director

Weathy Theatre

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I'd love to come show my support, but am afraid I will be at a job interview at that time. I wish you the best of luck.

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I don't know if they have the same type of license but the State Theatre in K'zoo serves booze - I don't recall any martini related deaths there. Give them the license - back in the day, that neighborhood had two of my favorite bars - Biermeister (great live jazz) and the White Rabbit (always scary out of control and always a blast.) Since their intention is only to enhance special events, I don't see the problem. In my humble, conspiracy theory opinion, this is just one of the sorry remnants of Harry Dolan's influence on GRPD - we'll be a long time getting over his tenure.

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...a "Club License" is a relatively restrictive type, issued by the state of Michigan to nonprofit organizations that have a membership base. It is used very successfully by a number of historic performance venues in the state, such as The Ark and Michigan Theatre (both in Ann Arbor). ... GRPD has not provided CMC with a formal explanation of... why they are denying this request. We only have second-hand details regarding one part of their objection: they do not feel it is safe for patrons to consume alcohol in a theatre with the lights dimmed. ...

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In a public hearing, it can be helpful to address an issue head-on. "We've discovered that 50% of our patrons are already wearing hip flasks, and 45% are already stinkin' falling-down drunk when they leave."

[short notice! that's this afternoon!]

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Give them the license - back in the day, that neighborhood had two of my favorite bars - Biermeister (great live jazz) and the White Rabbit (always scary out of control and always a blast.)

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...Yeah, I'm sorry about the short notice. When I found out GRPD was denying the request, I've spent almost an entire week on a 10-page "case statement" about why a Club License is the right fit. I'm pretty happy about it... and today I had to make packets with that and the many letters of support we received from neighbnorhood and business associations.

Normally we try to promote events a bit better at Wealthy Theatre... and this is certainly a big event for us, w/ the Planning Commission.

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Ahh, the Biermeister. The highlight of my underage drinking years. Fond memories of hacking up drivers licenses with Exacto knives, dining on corned beef and cabbage, drinking too many draft beers and the best jazz club atmosphere Grand Rapids could ever hope to offer.

Now we get "Jazz night at Z's". Depressing...

John

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This post also contains a wealth of information about the next and final phase in our Club License application for Wealthy Theatre: City Commission. More specific information about the 11/27 meeting -- which is the moment of truth -- will be posted and available at http://grcmc.org/theatre/blog.php

-----------------------------------------------------------------

that was the longest post ive ever seen on UP :shok:

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...

3. GRPD VICE UNIT: "WEALTHY THEATRE HAS EVENTS THAT ARE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC -- TICKETED OR FREE, ANYONE CAN ATTEND."

This is true and will not change. It's also true of numerous other state venues that have Club Licenses, from the Park Club in Kalamazoo, to The Bluestage Club in Napoleon, to the Farmington Hills Players (Barn), to Michigan Theatre in Jackson and Ann Arbor, to The Ark in Ann Arbor, and on and on. ...

6. GRPD VICE UNIT: "TEMPORARY (OR SHORT-TERM) MEMBERSHIPS ARE ILLEGAL (GRAND RAPIDS PRESS, 11/9/07)."

The Vice Unit Lieutenant told Planning Commission (11/8) and GR Press (11/9) that temporary memberships are illegal. ...

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Seems like comments from the non-local venues would be appropriate. Wonder if their phone numbers and contact info are available to the Vice Unit? Or the Press?

This looks almost like the Vice Unit told the Press that "temporary memberships are illegal," this was duly published, and then the VU cited that as a fact because it appeared in the paper. Hmmm.

[former editor, snip snip snip!]

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This is an update from the director at Wealthy Theatre (a service of Community Media Center) about our recent Planning Commission meeting (11/8). In short, we found this experience to be excellent. Our City Planners are thoroughly professional and, based on our experience, genuinely seem to have the best interests of the city's future at heart. And actually, I have to say, several months ago when Historic Preservation denied our request to change our marquee to LED electronic... I came away from that feeling like (the denial) was probably in the best interest of the area, and the theatre. They provided information, facts, and a framework for dealing with landmark structures. Any reasoned person would have had to agree. But the point being, I continue to be impressed with our city leaders as I meet and work with more and more of them, and the Planning Commission meeting (11/8) was a perfect example of why -- excellent questions, well-run meeting, thoughtful discussion... just a very good experience.

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