INDIANAPOLIS | Whiting and other cities bordering Lake Michigan soon may see new restaurants opening along their lakefronts, thanks to legislation approved 9-0 Wednesday by the Senate Public Policy Committee.
Senate Bill 173 allows the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to issue restaurants new licenses to sell alcohol for on-site consumption if the restaurant is within three blocks of Lake Michigan or on a historical lake vessel.
"This allows us to move forward pretty aggressively with developers, where before we were a little hamstrung because of the limit we have on licenses," said Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura, who testified in favor of the plan.
Current Indiana law limits alcohol sale licenses based on a city's population. Whiting only has five remaining, Stahura said.
"With everything we have going, three of those would be gone by summer," he said. "So that leaves us with two licenses and we're working with hotels, museums, restaurants and everything else, and it's really difficult to have to say who gets the two."
Under the legislation, which now advances to the full Senate, there would be no cap on the number of alcohol permits for restaurants next to or on the lake.
Permits would be available for beer sales only, beer and wine sales; or beer, wine and liquor sales. The permits could not be transferred to a restaurant located away from the lake.
State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, a sponsor of the legislation, said he is optimistic the Senate will vote to send the proposal to the House.
"I'm feeling better than a 50-50 shot of getting it out of the Senate," Charbonneau said.
The measure is also sponsored by state Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, and state Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, the committee chairman, who visited Whiting over the summer to personally inspect the city's lakefront development plans.
"It's such a gorgeous piece of property," Alting said.