Beyond the important region industries that call Whiting home is an incredible potential for tourism and dining development. Its proximity as a Lake Michigan shoreline community provides a natural draw for those exploring the aesthetic qualities of the lake.
The ability to seize upon that potential for new development took an important step forward with the introduction of a bill in the Indiana Legislature. It's a measure deserving approval by state lawmakers.
Indiana Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, is sponsoring a bill that would allow additional liquor licenses for restaurants along Lake Michigan.
The bill is a strong recognition that restaurants draw diners -- aka tourists -- and the cash they spend from within and beyond a city's borders. The measure would allow the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to issue restaurants new licenses to sell alcohol for on-site consumption if the business is located within three blocks of Lake Michigan or on a historical lake vessel.
The logic behind the legislation makes sense, considering existing language in state law. Indiana already allows unlimited alcohol permits for restaurants in municipal riverfront development districts. It's time to expand that rule to the hot tourism draw that Lake Michigan's south shore provides.
Charbonneau pointed out last week the potential for developing Whiting's lakefront is shackled by a state law capping alcohol licenses based on a municipality's population. This cap is a ball and chain to economic growth that the Legislature could -- and should -- cut loose.
The Indiana Senate approved this measure last week. It's now in the hands of the Indiana House to keep this bill -- which holds so much potential for lakefront municipalities like Whiting -- to push the measure through for the governor's signature.
It makes sense to lift the restriction on the number of liquor licenses in this case to allow Whiting's lakefront to become the kind of dining area that downtown Valparaiso and other areas have become.