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Local attorney steps in when clients can't get liquor license
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Local attorney steps in when clients can't get liquor license

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When owners of a new Lincoln restaurant went to get a liquor license they discovered the manager must be a U.S. citizen.

The owners are legal immigrants from China, who have been living and working in Lincoln for several years, but state law requires the person managing the liquor license to be a U.S. citizen.

The laws are archaic, said Perry Pirsch, the Lincoln attorney who represents the restaurant owners and who went beyond the normal call of duty.

Pirsch put his name in as manager for the liquor license and got approval from the City Council this week.

The owners are just weeks away from opening their new restaurant, Perfect Diner, 2855 N. 27th St.

Because they have invested so much money in a new building, they needed the revenue from both meals and drinks, Pirsch said. So having a liquor license was critical.

The easiest and quickest way around the obstacle was to become a partner and their liquor manager, he said.

The restaurant, which will likely open in early December, will serve an Asian fusion menu, which includes Sichuan cuisine, Japanese sushi and hibachi, and Thai curry food.

Pirsch believes the state law is discriminatory, based on national origin. And he is working on getting it changed in the Legislature. In the meantime, several of the new restaurant's owners will be eligible to become U.S. citizens in about two years.

"Perry is our best friend lawyer," restaurant spokeswoman Lin "Shelly" Linling told the council. 

"Do these two things go together -- best friend, lawyer?" joked Councilman Roy Christensen. 

Pedestrians got the tickets

Last week I had some numbers wrong in this column. I had been told police had cited a number of motorists for failing to yield to a pedestrian and that those citations were dropped because Lincoln’s city prosecutor believes a pedestrian has to step out into the street before cars must stop.

The city attorney's office does believe a pedestrian must step out into the street before cars must stop, but my information on the citations was incorrect.

The police issued no citations to drivers, though they handed out three warning tickets during the pedestrian crossing enforcement project, funded by a small federal highway safety grant.

Police did issue 28 written warnings and two verbal warnings to pedestrians who improperly crossed the street in the middle of a block where there was no crosswalk, based on a report for the grant.

This was not the outcome retired State Patrol investigator David Nicholson had hoped for when he convinced the State Office of Highway Safety to give Lincoln police a mini-grant. He hoped to educate drivers about their obligation to stop for pedestrians.

Here’s some more pedestrian-related data.

* Pedestrians generally are not killed by drivers at crosswalks. Out of 22 recent pedestrian fatalities in the state only one occurred in a crosswalk, according to Fred Zwonechek, administrator for the state's Office of Highway Safety.

* Pedestrians who died were trying to change a tire, were working on their own cars when the vehicle rolled over on them, were trying to cross in the middle of a block and were walking intoxicated at night, he said.

French flag in council chamber

The Lincoln City Council added a French flag to the mix of flags at the front of council chambers for the Monday meeting to honor the victims of terrorism in Paris. Councilman Roy Christensen borrowed the flag from a friend who owns the Normandy Restaurant, 2785 S. 17th St.

The flag will remain up all week.

Conflict over South Haymarket

The Public Building Commission which manages property for both city and county governments has for decades had a plan to consolidate government services near the current city-county complex, in what is now being called the South Haymarket area.

A new plan, developed by the City-County Planning Department, to encourage potential developers to think of the South Haymarket as the next place to live and shop, seemed to undermine the goal of consolidating city and county government in the same area.

For example, planners believe the K Street records warehouse would make a great building for apartments or condos. It currently provides convenient storage for records.

So the Public Building Commission asked the planners to take the government buildings out of the plan before they become part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which is intended to guide development.

The planning staff did not remove the government buildings but has come back with some language changes to acknowledge the history. The new language describes the long-term plans of the building commission, and indicates future leaders should pay attention to the investments made by government in this area.

And it puts the word “potential” with the diagram showing the K Street records warehouse as a site for residential development.

The language doesn’t preclude turning over some of these buildings to the private sector if the price is right, but it provides the historical perspective, said Councilwoman Jane Raybould, a member of the building commission.

That new language wasn’t enough for Councilman Jon Camp, a veteran member of the building commission. He doesn’t believe the language protects buildings renovated by the building commission for use by local government.

He pointed out the commission is spending almost $4 million to renovate the Benesch Building, 825 J St., to use as a 15-bed mental health crisis center, primarily for people who are suicidal or a danger to others, and would not want a private company purchasing that building in the next 20 or 30 years.

The language will become part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, but Camp believes Comp Plan language often becomes gospel, precluding other options. He's afraid it will encourage developers to look at government-owned buildings in the area.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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