Urbana council to consider finalizing rules changes for downtown events

Urbana council to consider finalizing rules changes for downtown events

URBANA — City officials are hoping some revisions to their rules regarding temporary liquor licenses will bring more special events to town.

Right now, there's a limit on how many special events individual licensees can hold, and officials say the fee they charge for some private promoters is too high. They think that if they tweak some of the rules, they could encourage more events and festivals to come to Urbana.

City council members reviewed the changes last week, and they could finalize them when they meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St.

Temporary liquor licenses are issued for events like the Uncork Urbana Wine Festival, International Beer Tasting and Food Truck Festival and the ILLIAC Spring Festival. Officials think that, by reducing fees and removing limits on the frequency of events, they will get more applications for temporary liquor licenses.

"By improving the city's (temporary liquor license) structure and making them more accessible, there's an opportunity to expand upon these events and introduce even more festivals and events into the community," said Urbana marketing coordinator Natalie Kenny Marquez.

Among the proposed changes is reducing a $1,072 per-day fee for events hosted by private promoters to $150 for the first day and $50 for each subsequent day.

That fee was "significantly higher" than other cities and towns, Kenny Marquez said.

"This license has a very high fee, which has resulted in very few events being hosted," she said.

Another change would remove caps on how many special events existing liquor license holders can host on a site adjacent to their own property. It would also allow them to host off-site special events, which is not currently allowed — although the off-site events would be limited to no more than two per month or 10 per year.

The changes would also remove limits on how many special events charitable or civic organizations can hold.

The lack of limits worried Alderman Dennis Roberts, D-Ward 5. He wondered whether a licensee would be able to hold a "special event" on public property just about into perpetuity.

But City Attorney James Simon said the city may place other kinds of limitations on special events.

"If it's going to consume public space, that means it's also going to consume public services, for which — it's up to the city — charges can be made, limitations can be placed," Simon said.

And, he added, even if the city is not charging or limiting an event in anyway, officials can always simply deny a special event license.

Noise was another concern. Alderman Charlie Smyth, D-Ward 1, said that if a licensee is hosting, for example, a concert every weekend, it could disturb residents.

Mayor Laurel Prussing said city officials can give it a try and adjust later if need be.

"We'll see how it works," she said. "If it turns out to be a problem, then we'll change it."