The ability of small restaurants, distilleries, breweries and wineries to host entertainment in Frederick took a small step forward at Wednesday’s mayor and Board of Aldermen workshop at City Hall.
The board reached consensus to send to the Planning Commission a text amendment for an ordinance that would allow establishments smaller than 10,000 square feet to host entertainment without having to receive conditional approval from the city.
At the end of the day, it came down to two letters before the board would move the ordinance forward: GC, which stands for general commercial zoning. According to the ordinance going into Wednesday’s meeting, entertainment would be permitted without separate approval at small establishments, but only downtown business and mixed-use zoning districts would be exempt from the requirement that the property line of the nearest lot used for residential purposes be 500 feet away from the establishment.
Alderman Ben MacShane wondered why the exception would not include general commercial zoning properties, which are more prevalent in areas outside downtown. An example he presented came from the potential of Il Forno, which is along the Golden Mile, to one day host live music.
Without the inclusion of the GC tag to the text amendment, the restaurant would not have the same right that other small businesses would enjoy due to its general commercial zoning, thus providing difficulties to adhere to the 500-foot rule, which could cause problems for nearby residential properties. He also pointed out distilleries on East Street that may not be zoned downtown residential or mixed use that would also be unable to host entertainment without conditional approval under the proposed ordinance.
“This is making me feel like we are allowing for something for certain types of businesses and certain neighborhoods, but the majority of restaurants are not in the downtown zone,” MacShane said. “If we are going to allow entertainment to be a little easier, that should be permitted to those other areas as well.”
The mayor and aldermen heard comment from Rockwell Brewery co-owner Paul Tinney, whose business could benefit from the initial ordinance. Tinney said it never occurred to him that having live music would not be possible, and the element of entertainment was integral to Rockwell’s business plan before it even opened.
“I’m just looking for a way to have the equal footing that other venues have for entertainment,” Tinney said.
In addition to the 500-foot requirement, the proposed ordinance also stipulates that entertainment at small establishments take place between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends, that the entertainment occur only inside the structure, and that the primary functions of the business — be it predominantly food service or alcohol service — continue as the entertainment is provided.
There was some confusion as to whether the ordinance would be passed along to the Planning Commission as the conversation about it wound down. MacShane was concerned that the ordinance would move forward without the inclusion of the general commercial zoning properties as an exception for the 500-foot rule.
“Does inserting ‘GC’ move this forward?” asked Alderman Roger Wilson, who co-submitted the ordinance with Alderwoman Kelly Russell, the Downtown Frederick Partnership and Gabrielle Collard, the city’s division manager of current planning.
After hearing that it would from MacShane, the board reached a consensus. The earliest the ordinance could make it to a public hearing would be late October or early November, according to Joe Adkins, deputy director of planning.