INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission on Nov. 1 will auction six new alcohol sale permits for Whiting lakefront restaurants, but Mayor Joe Stahura isn't expecting any bidders. For now.
"I don't anticipate a whole lot of speculation on those permits, but if there is, it may be a pleasant surprise," Stahura said. "There's developers in town on a daily basis looking at potential sites."
Whiting's plans to acquire properties for new restaurants adjacent to its lakefront park got put on hold this summer when shoreline structural and engineering problems uncovered during park redevelopment pushed that project's completion date to November from July.
The mayor said once the park is finished, the city will "move aggressively" to put a hotel and a restaurant in the park, as well as nine commercial buildings just outside the park for additional bar-and-grill-type restaurants.
"I think a flurry of activity will happen right after that, because you've got to get something done first and at that point people believe it," Stahura said. "Right now, no one can see the finished product because the road has been closed for eight months."
In addition to the Whiting permits, the Nov. 1 auction features two alcohol permits for Merrillville restaurants and one each in Munster and New Chicago.
State lawmakers earlier this year awarded Whiting the additional alcohol permits for restaurants located within three blocks of Lake Michigan after Stahura explained the limited number of permits available based on Whiting's population was impeding new businesses eager to serve BP office employees.
He said numerous companies have met with him about locating in Whiting, but because the auctioned alcohol permits have to be put into use relatively quickly he expects restaurants will wait to buy them closer to their opening dates.
"I thought that by this time that we would at least have a deal or two landed and ready to go where the licenses came into play by the end of the year," Stahura said. "But because of the park-project delay and some of the railroad issues we've experienced, it just set us back a little bit."
The new Whiting alcohol permits are "three-way"; they allow a restaurant to conduct either beer sales only, beer and wine sales, or beer, wine and liquor sales. The minimum auction bid for a permit is $10,000.
A winning bidder still must obtain the approval of the county alcohol beverage board and the state alcohol commission before the permit will be issued.