Oak Park voters approve restaurant liquor sales

Oak Park voters have approved a proposal that will allow restaurants to expand their alcoholic drinks list to include “spirits and mixed spirit drinks,” two years after the city lifted its longtime prohibition of alcohol in its eateries.

With all precincts reporting, 58% of voters approved the proposal, while 41% voted against it. The results show 2,579 votes were cast in favor of the proposal and 1,847 were cast against it.

Under the city’s previous law, liquor stores and other businesses were allowed to sell alcohol but not restaurants. City officials previously told the Free Press that a ban on all single-glass alcohol sales became an economic issue for Oak Park.

Mayor Marian McClellan said in an email Tuesday evening to the Free Press that in order to attract new restaurants like Applebees, Olive Garden or locally owned bistros, the city needed to change its ordinance to allow mixed drinks and spirits.

“It’s an important building block for attracting new vibrant retail business to our city,” McClellan said.

The proposal asked voters: “Shall the sale of spirits and mixed spirit drinks in addition to beer and wine be permitted for consumption on the premises within the City of Oak Park under the provisions of the law governing same?”

Oak Park officials voted in 2013 to let restaurants sell wine and beer by the glass, ending a six-decade ban.

Oak Park restaurant owners told the Free Press at the time that they needed to sell alcohol in order to compete with neighboring cities.

Prior to the 2013 vote, Oak Park residents voted against allowing Class C liquor licenses, which allows the sale of liquor as well as beer and wine, in four elections dating back to 1954.

City Manager Erik Tungate held two informational town hall meetings in recent months explaining to residents that the ordinance will allow restaurants, but not bars, strip clubs or topless bars.

“Some people who were previously opposed are taking another look at the issue,” McClellan said.

According to McClellan, Oak Park lost a potential hotel and many restaurants to other cities. McClellan said the city’s economic development manager Kim Marrone will begin marketing the city to restaurants.

“The City of Oak Park is the turnaround story in Oakland County,” McClellan said. “The new development at the former Detroit Artillery Armory will bring a $35 million investment into the city and 200 jobs. These workers will eat and shop in our city. The momentum toward exciting development is rolling.”

In other local elections:

■ Ferndale voters narrowly approved an operating millage renewal that will last for the next 10 years. With all ballots counted, 1,790 voted to approve the millage, while 1,735 voted against it.The millage will raise about $2.7 million.

Ferndale voters also approved a street and park improvement bond proposal with 2,059 votes in favor and 1,468 against the measure.

■ City of Wayne voters rejected a proposal that would have formed a separate retirement system for police and firefighters. The results show 1,743 voters were against the measure, compared to 805 in favor of it.

City of Wayne voters also voted against a separate proposal that would have created a new tax to fund the proposed retirement system for police and firefighters. That measure failed with 1,852 votes against it and 706 in favor.

■ Lincoln Park, voters rejected two proposals that would have created and funded a separate retirement system for police and firefighters.

There were 2,451 votes cast against a charter amendment that would have created the new system and 2,096 cast in favor of it. The proposal that would have created a pension board and levied taxes annually to fund the system was defeated with 2,440 no votes and 2,127 yes votes.

■ Addison Township voters narrowly approved a transportation authority millage proposal that will supplement the operating expenses of the North Oakland Transportation Authority. The millage authorizes the township to levy a new millage up to .25 mills on the taxable value of property for five years. With all precincts reporting, 819 people cast votes in favor of the proposal, while 801 people voted against it.

■ Village of Franklin residents overwhelmingly approved a renewal of a special millage for police services and the general fund. The renewal was approved with 711 yes votes and 145 no votes. The millage will raise about $117,707 in the first year its levied.

Contact Katrease Stafford: kstafford@freepress.com or 313-223-4759. Follow her on Twitter @KatreaseS_Freep.