Dallas will consider more opportunities for beer and wine sales in stores and restaurants near schools and churches after a City Council vote on Wednesday.
The change permits restaurants without drive-thru windows and stores as small as 30,000 square feet to apply for exceptions to spacing requirements that normally forbid them from selling beer and wine within 300 feet of a school, day care center, church or hospital.
Previously, the city would not even accept such requests.
In 2009, the council granted an exception for beer and wine sales at a 50,000-square-foot Kroger store under construction on Haskell Avenue near Central Expressway that is near a school.
Central Market, which is building a 30,000-square-foot food store at Royal Lane and Preston Road near St. Mark's School of Texas, requested the change.
Stephen Butt, Central Market executive, said the change would allow other grocery stores to open in Dallas in locations that might otherwise have been forbidden.
"We appreciate the council's support of our amendment request," he said.
The City Council still has the final say on any variance request.
"We'll most likely not have a problem with Central Market as a bad actor," Councilwoman Ann Margolin said. "Similarly, as other supermarkets come before us, we can evaluate them one by one and make a determination."
A November 2010 referendum eliminated dry areas of Dallas where beer and wine sales had been forbidden in the past.
Several Southern Dallas council members opposed that referendum but voted for the relaxed rules Wednesday.
The city has been trying to encourage grocery stores to open in Southern Dallas neighborhoods where stores are scarce.
"I'm looking forward to you being in Southern Dallas at some point," Mayor Mike Rawlings told Butt.
Wednesday's change also allows restaurants to request the same spacing exception near schools so they can avoid more expensive private-club rules to sell beer and wine.
Christie Erdeljac, of Jonathan's Restaurant on Beckley in Oak Cliff, supported that part of the new ordinance.
"It seems like we're going to have a liquor license regardless, except it's going to impact me financially as a business owner, which would put me in some financial peril," she said.
Former Councilman Bob Stimson also spoke for the Oak Cliff restaurant.
"This is truly a way for the city of Dallas of offer incentives to good actors in the restaurant business," Stimson said.
Jonathan's is very close to Hogg Elementary School. Neighbor Pam Conley told the City Council that distance restrictions for alcohol from schools are already too weak in Dallas.
"Council, you can do better than this," she said. "Please don't sell off our children for the sake of economic development."
Only Councilwoman Angela Hunt voted against the change.
Rawlings inserted one additional procedural hurdle for businesses before the final vote.
Two council members instead of just one must second any motion to approve a variance in distance requirements.
"It doesn't block it, but I think it makes our standard just a little bit higher," he said.