A proposed "community entertainment district" that would allow up to 15 new liquor permits in the Warehouse District passed a Toledo City Council committee yesterday 7-0, and heads to the full council for a vote Feb. 22.
Tony Packo's Cafe applied to establish the 80-acre district as a way of making new liquor permits available for itself and others above the city's quota.
Packo's is renovating a former auto glass business for a restaurant at 7 South Superior St., near Fifth Third Field.
Speakers at yesterday's hearing warned that the residential component of the Warehouse District could be threatened by new noise-generating bars. They complained that the district was drawn up in secrecy and never shared with the Toledo Warehouse District Association.
Robert Seyfang, a developer and resident of the Warehouse District since 1989, said two bars on South Huron and South St. Clair streets compete to have the loudest music on their patios in the summer.
He and others said they complained repeatedly last summer, but with little enforcement of the city noise ordinances by Toledo police.
Tom Kroma, commissioner of code enforcement, promised a stepped-up enforcement effort.
But police Chief Michael Navarre said after the hearing that he worked a week on the late-night shift last summer to find out for himself if the bars were too loud. He said he did not believe the noise levels violated city law.
While sympathetic, council members said more entertainment, in the form of bars and restaurants, is part of the recipe for a strong downtown.
"There's a certain level of noise and people congregating that we all want downtown," said District 5 Councilman Ellen Grachek.
At-large Councilman Frank Szollosi said: "That's the whole reason Fifth Third Field was put there."
Michelle Green, developer of River West Townhomes on South St. Clair, replied: "With all due respect, Frank, you don't live here." Ms. Green said she complained about the bar noise at least 25 times last summer.
Robin Horvath, Packo's chief operating officer, said he hoped to open the new restaurant in time for the 2005 Mud Hens baseball season, but said July 1 is now the earliest possible opening date.
Mr. Horvath said the price of acquiring an existing liquor permit is between $20,000 and $40,000. The new liquor permits in the entertainment district will cost $2,344 each, according to the state Division of Liquor Control.
State law allows the creation of community entertainment districts in cities in which all liquor permits have been taken. The districts allow one new license per five acres, up to 15.
The district encompasses Fifth Third Field, much of the Warehouse District, and the Owens Corning world headquarters riverfront property.