The Lincoln City Council is hoping to find a way around a technical liquor licensing issue that could mean the newly reopened Royal Grove will have to close for several months.
“This puts the future of the business in serious jeopardy," the owners said in a letter to the council.
The inability to open on weekends "is terrible for our brand, damages our relationships and trust with agents, promoters, bands both locally and nationally, and puts a stop to any cash flow,” the letter from Eli and Carrie Mardock and Luther Mardock said.
The council has put a decision on the Royal Grove liquor license on hold for a week, searching for a way to allow the business to remain open on weekends.
When the new owners first considered purchasing or leasing the Royal Grove, 340 W. Cornhusker, they assumed the property was zoned for business, like information on the assessor’s site indicated, according to the letter.
With that zoning there would be no trouble getting a liquor license for the business that was reopening an iconic nightclub from the past.
But the Grove’s parking lot is actually zoned residential. And the building itself is within 100 feet of that zoning, which means no liquor license under the city’s very strict 100-foot rule. That rule is intended to keep bars and off-sale stores from opening near homes.
The Royal Grove owners believed they could survive that 12-week process to get the zoning changed by using special designated licenses, called SDLs, and opening only on weekends.
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The Grove reopened Jan. 25 with Darude, the Finnish EDM producer.
But the Grove has used the last of the 12 SDLs allowed for a calendar year and still has at least another six to eight weeks before the zoning change gets final approval.
“We are now facing up to a three-month gap, where we will be forced to close our doors, cancel all upcoming events, release our staff, etc.,” the Mardocks' letter said.
“This situation is an absolute nightmare for any business owner," the letter said.
Two weeks ago, the council denied the liquor license request, based simply on the current zoning problem. Council members assumed the Royal Grove would be able to continue operating on special licenses on weekends until the rezoning decision, and council denial would have little effect on the business.
Faced with the new issues, the council Monday voted unanimously to reconsider the previous decision and will vote again on the liquor license recommendation at its March 5 meeting.
In the meantime, several potential solutions are being explored, said Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm.
The previous Royal Grove, closed for four years, had a liquor license despite the residential zoning of the parking lot, because of the city's grandfather rule. That grandfathering protection ended two years after the business closed, according to Planning Department staff.