CARBONDALE — A new process of approving liquor licenses at the city level could be on its way soon.
The Carbondale City Council talked Tuesday night about streamlining the process to obtain a liquor license.
The current process requires the applicant to fill out an application, questionnaire, submit a background check and fees by the 20th of the month to be considered for the next Liquor Advisory Board meeting, which is the first Thursday of the month, as long as it's not a holiday.
After the advisory board meeting, applications are then considered by the Local Liquor Control Commission, which is made up of the same members of the City Council. The process typically takes about two months.
During the conversation, there were several options discussed about how to make the process quicker. Ideas included having just one person — the mayor — rule on all liquor license applications; having the mayor and a deputy commissioner rule on applications; having multiple commissioners, but not the full council; or keep it as-is, with the entire City Council ruling on the applications.
There seemed to be a consensus that the process could be quicker if the council reviewed applications itself without sending applicants through the advisory board. The advisory board would still exist, with its function to gather information and comments from the public and relay that information to the council about new types of liquor licenses, elimination of licenses or proposed policy about liquor laws.
“We really need to speed the liquor process up,” Councilman Adam Loos said. “There are a lot of restaurants that can’t survive without it, and I don’t see a reason to throw roadblocks up in their place.”
As for the size of the body, most members wanted to have multiple eyes on the process.
“The council as a whole best serves the process,” Councilman Jeff Doherty said. “It provides for diverse thought. People’s experiences lend to, I think, good decisions in terms of looking at liquor license applications and as much so with disciplinary actions.”
Councilman Navreet Kang said the current process of approving licenses is working, but skipping the advisory board process when dealing with applications would be fine.
“What we have right now is a perfect system,” he said.
Mayor Mike Henry agreed there should be multiple eyes during the process, admitting he didn’t love the idea of being the only person making a decision.
“I don’t think the mayor solely issuing a liquor license is the best model,” he said.
After council discussion, Don Monty, chair of the advisory board and former Carbondale mayor, said the advisory board didn’t know this discussion was even happening. He said the agenda item was extremely misleading, otherwise, more public discussion could been had.
“I’m disappointed with the title of this agenda item,” he said. “It is like it is hiding from the public what you are going to talk about.”
The agenda item was titled "council discussion regarding possible changes to Title 2, Chapter 2 of the Carbondale Revised Code." Monty said the public shouldn’t have to do extra research on the internet after reading the council agenda.
Before directing staff on an ordinance, multiple council members asked for the advisory board to discuss the process and provide more feedback.