Meeting Watch: Pre-council Caucus (16 Nov 2008)

Quickie Burger's liquor license, plus quiz material

In a Sunday evening caucus where no members of the general public except for The Chronicle appeared, councilmembers who were present focused their attention mostly on a liquor license transfer, which is on Monday’s agenda. But Marcia Higgins, Sabra Briere, plus newly elected members of council Carsten Hohnke, Sandi Smith, and Tony Derezinski, revealed some quiz-worthy trivia in the course of their deliberations.

Transfer of Class C Liquor License to Quickie Burger

The question of whether to grant a transfer of a Class C liquor license to Quickie Burger, located at 800 S. State Street, had been postponed from the last council meeting on Nov. 6, and it had previously been postponed from Aug. 18, a fact that in the course of discussion caught the attention of Derezinski, who was concerned that the issue not be simply pushed down the road. Higgins clarified that the Aug. 18 postponement was not so much a postponement as an acknowledgment that the application was not ready to be brought before council, and was not actually discussed at that meeting.

Hohnke got things rolling by asking what the nature of councilmember Stephen Rapundalo’s reservations were regarding the transfer of the license to Quickie Burger, which he had voiced at the last council meeting. Higgins clarified that Rapundalo’s concerns had to do with the fact that in the immediate geographic area, there were not other liquor licenses of this kind – for restaurants and bars (although there are package liquor stores in the neighborhood). And a further concern of Rapundalo’s, said Higgins, was that the population living in the immediate vicinity were mostly students.

Smith said that she felt that it was somewhat arbitrary to decide where a liquor license should go, given that all other criteria were met. Later in the discussion, Smith would reiterate much the same sentiment, saying that she questioned whether the density of students in the area was enough to say that Quickie Burger cannot complete their business plan. It’s a line that we can draw, she said, but wondered if we want to draw it based on “the typical occupancy of homes in the area.”

Higgins stated that it was definitely within the jurisdiction of council to decide geographic allocation of liquor licenses. And she said that other businesses she’d heard from did not support the license transfer – not because of the fear of competition, but rather because they were concerned about the negative impact it could have on the character of the neighborhood. Higgins, who represents Ward 4 where Quickie Burger is located, put the possible transfer of the liquor license in the context of an area where she said there was an ongoing problem. She saw the addition of a liquor license to Quickie Burger to be “just one more thing to deal with in trying to get the area to be more stable.”

Briere said that it was somewhat frustrating to her to hear of the concerns only when the issue came before council at the last meeting, and wished that any concerns had been discussed by the liquor committee itself so that councilmembers would have had advance opportunity to formulate questions and get them answered in a timely way. Further, she said, because Rapundalo did not attend caucus that evening, she was unable to get answers at that meeting (Note: Caucus gatherings are optional for members of council).

Briere said she had not reached any conclusions yet, but had identified some reasons that could not be reasonably used to object to the license transfer, as well as some that could be used to object, without committing herself to objecting for those reasons. Not possible reasons for objection: (i) students might drink (ii) students might drink at late hours. Possible reasons for objection: (iii) ease of passing alcohol to underage drinkers in a sidewalk location (which Quickie Burger is seeking) (iv) creation of different business climate due to lucrative nature of serving alcohol.

Hohnke said that he felt it was unlikely that there would be a flood of businesses seeking liquor licenses in the area, because it fell outside the DDA boundary, and they would not be eligible for the numerous redevelopment licenses that are available inside the DDA area. They would therefore have to compete for the relatively scarce Class C licenses.

Derezinski offered the historical perspective of Dominick’s immediately adjacent to UM Law School, which he said he recalled from his law school days was not allowed to serve alcohol. It was, he said, regarded as a kind of Maginot Line guarding the South University area. When a liquor license was granted to Dominick’s, service of alcohol extended to the South University area. From his perspective, said Derezinski, this had not led to problems. Higgins said that there were any number of ongoing problems.

Councilmembers identified some key questions they would seek clarity on before and during Monday’s meeting, which will likely include a closed session with Mary Fales of the city attorney’s office to request legal advice on the issue. The questions:

  • How late would Quickie Burger be able to serve alcohol if the license were transfered?
  • Does city council have the option of separating out permission to serve alcohol inside the establishment versus in the sidewalk serving area?

Facts for Government Geeks

On city council’s Monday agenda is a resolution determining the order of succession for the office of mayor. The resolution is a list of names as opposed to an algorithm, but Higgins explained the algorithm during caucus discussion: after mayor pro tem, members of council are sorted first by date of their start of current council service, and then alphabetically. The list of names on the agenda assumes that Higgins will be elected mayor pro tem at the meeting, and unless Christopher Taylor makes a move to take that spot, he will be last in the succession order. (D comes before H comes before S comes before T). Higgins also indicated that she would be asking for the creation of a rules committee to clean up some of the language from a recent major revision effort. Derezenski and Briere said they would volunteer to serve with Higgins on that committee.

Hohnke raised a question about three very similar agenda items involving a request of the county drain commissioner to construct drainage projects in various locations.

  • On the Pioneer High School Grounds to Reduce Downstream Flooding and Improve Water Quality ($4,414,300 Project Amount; $4,211,242 City Share) (Roll Call Vote Required)
  • At the Ann Arbor Farmers Market to Reduce Downstream Flooding and Improve Water Quality and to Appropriate Funds for these Stormwater Management Improvements ($599,600 Project Amount;
    $572,018 City Share) (8 Votes Required) (Roll Call Vote Required)
  • Along Stadium Boulevard to Reduce Downstream Flooding and Improve Water Quality ($736,200 Project Amount; $702,335 City Share) (Roll Call Vote Required)

Why does the second of these require eight votes when the others do not? Higgins supplied the answer. We’ll leave comments open for readers who’d like to prove their government geek mettle by giving the explanation.


  1. November 17, 2008 at 4:56 pm | permalink

    Since no one else has come forward, I will. The second item requires 8 votes because it amends the budget, which has already been adopted. I think.

  2. By Dave Askins
    November 18, 2008 at 8:33 am | permalink

    Dave Cahill wrote: “The second item requires 8 votes because it amends the budget, which has already been adopted. I think.”

    That contrast among the items might be there as well, but I didn’t see a difference in how the items were paid for. Maybe it’s worth a second look. In any event, the explanation given by councilmember Higgins was that the farmers market item involved city-owned land, but the other two do not.

    To generate more interest in the future, perhaps there’ll have to be prizes. Or perhaps not everyone embraces the label of “geek,” even when embedded in the wonderfully alliterative phrase, “government geek.”

  3. By Steve Bean
    November 18, 2008 at 2:48 pm | permalink

    That was my guess–just didn’t get around to sending it. Prizes would have helped. :-) How about lunch with council member of winner’s choosing at one of your restaurant advertisers? Is that government geeky enough?