Alderman Roger Wilson was unable to quell his excitement as the Frederick Board of Aldermen voted to pass an ordinance that will make it easier for the city’s small food and drink establishments to offer entertainment.
As Mayor Michael O’Connor announced that the ordinance had passed with a 5-0 vote, Wilson made a small but noticeable fist bump.
“I’m just so excited about live entertainment in Frederick,” Wilson said after the meeting.
The legislation will allow establishments smaller than 10,000 feet to host entertainment, such as music, trivia nights or yoga classes, without having to receive permission from the city staff or Zoning Board of Appeals before each event.
Under the approved ordinances, the establishments can hold entertainment as long as it is between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Entertainment must occur inside, with the establishment continuing its primary business of being a restaurant, brewery or distillery.
If the business is not in the downtown business, mixed-use or general commercial zoning districts, it must be at least 500 feet from the nearest residential lot, according to the ordinance.
The board passed the ordinance with little discussion. Both Alderwoman Kelly Russell and Wilson, who brought the legislation, thanked staff and the Downtown Frederick Partnership for their work on the ordinance.
Allowing establishments to host entertainment will draw people to the city’s restaurants, breweries and taprooms, according to advocates, including Wilson.
“When residents and visitors come downtown, they want to have an experience,” Wilson said.
Matt Thrasher, co-founder of Rockwell Brewery and one of the driving forces behind the ordinance, said he believes hosting entertainment will give his business a boost.
He holds a trivia night Monday, and while he is not on the trivia bandwagon, it has a following. Monday used to be a slow night, he said. Now it is a full house.
Those events, such as trivia nights, bring people to his brewery and keep them there while they drink beer. It’ll make it easier for him and the other brewers to hold these experience nights now that they do not have to go through a permitting process each time.
“We’re all making great beers. Now, it’s about making the experience,” he said.
The conditional approval is also much cheaper, since Thrasher will no longer have to pay for each permit.
Monica Pearce, owner of Tenth Ward Distilling Co., said music is an accessory for her business. The distillery plans to have live music in its taproom.
That becomes an extra draw for the customer. And it makes the businesses more competitive with those in Washington, D.C., or Baltimore, she said.
Dave Jarrett, who is bringing a restaurant to Market Street with his partner Alicia Maldonado, said having entertainment will enhance the restaurant.
“We were going against the grain by doing the traditional restaurant,” Jarrett said. “The restaurant has evolved.”
Although they planned to come to Frederick even if the ordinance failed, Maldonado said it would have been an uphill battle without entertainment.
The ordinance will also benefit local musicians looking for venues, Wilson said. With the recent closing of Blue Side Tavern and other nightspots, there have been fewer stages for local artists to display their talent. Now, other stages might appear, at places such as Tenth Ward or the recently opened Smoketown Creekside.
Embracing the local talent and the growing craft brewery industry is good for the city, Wilson said. Entertainment is the next step.
“It adds that pizzazz to the city,” Wilson said.