Michael Bushnell

In its December 21 issue, “The Northeast News” reported on two Northeast neighborhood associations that were actively opposing the issuance of Liquor by the Drink permits in their respective neighborhoods.

The Sheffield Neighborhood Association was opposing a permit that had been issued with contingencies at Inolvidable, a bar located at 6401 E. 12th Street, and in the Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood, opposition was mounted against a liquor permit for an event space located at 3608 St. John Avenue.

According to Kansas City’s Regulated Industries Department, both permits have been approved, leaving both neighborhood associations frustrated with a system that they believe has been tilted against them due to recent ordinance changes that take away neighborhood associations’ voice in the permit issuance process.

“As a neighborhood leader, it frustrates me that the neighborhood association isn’t taken into account,” said Sheffield Neighborhood Association Secretary Carly Rose Benjamin. “We should be a qualitative factor, but what’s the point in including us in the notification process, then strip that voice away when it comes to making the decision?”

According to an email from the Regulated Industries Department, Inolvidable has a deadline of February 1 to comply by submitting the necessary paperwork from City Inspectors such as the Health and Fire Department. Once those passed inspections are submitted, the bar will be free to open and operate in accordance with City ordinances. If the bar does not comply, they may apply for a 60-day extension to allow for submission of the paperwork.

According to Benjamin, the Sheffield Neighborhood was told by Regulated Industries Director Jim Ready they can’t deny a permit based on what might happen, citing the permit’s six-month probationary period as the proper time for logging specific opposition points.

Benjamin was quick to note that neighbors inside the consent radius submitted hard evidence of vandalism, property damage, broken bottles and trash left in their yard by patrons of the private party hall that operated prior to going through the permit process. That evidence, according to Benjamin, wasn’t part of the decision because no evidence, such as police calls for service records, was accepted.
Benjamin did cite two other locations, El Torito Carnicera at 6212 Independence Ave. and LaCubana at 5402 Winner Rd., at which Sheffield Neighborhood Association had no problem with liquor permits being issued.

“We’re going to be watching very closely when Inolvidable opens up,” Benjamin said. “We’ll be making those calls to the police and logging activities with pictures and video in order to make our case with the City.”

Scarritt Renaissance neighbors are also frustrated after a liquor permit was issued to the St. John Event Center at 3608 St. John. The initial consent process was flawed because the Regulated Industries Investigator put an incorrect email address on the consent letter, making it impossible for residents to respond electronically to the consent request. Additionally, the neighborhood association was not included on the notification email per City Code.

The event center, according to neighbors who live close by, was a problem throughout the summer as it allegedly operated and served alcohol without the necessary permits. During that time, police were called numerous times to respond to loud after hours parties and disturbances that spilled out into the streets.

“The Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association is frustrated and disappointed by Regulated Industries’ careless issuance of this license, despite heavy opposition from multiple fronts. The health and safety of our community cannot rest on the votes of five individuals, with no regard for broader input,” said Scott Hale, outgoing neighborhood association president.

He’s referring to responses from neighbors immediately outside the consent radius not being considered in the decision process.

“I’m concerned, given what we’ve already seen over the summer with loud parties that will continue to negatively impact the quality of life of residents in the surrounding blocks,” said Christina Penn, who lives about a half block away from the center. “Additionally, with no off-street parking, it creates a substantial traffic hazard along this part of St. John.”

Neighbor Kristin Vietti echoed Penn’s concerns.

“Any establishment that sells liquor has a higher likelihood of violence than businesses without a liquor license,” Vietti said. “The neighborhood already suffers from residents who don’t care about quiet hours and a police force who doesn’t feel like noise complaints are a concern, so I assume I’ll be kept awake until shortly after the bar closes each week, but who cares and who’s interested in helping?”

The Northeast News reached out to the City’s Regulated Industries Department with specific questions, but they have not responded to our numerous requests for comment.

Both neighborhoods promised continued vigorous opposition to the permits, including requesting a hearing with the Liquor Control Board of Review, a citizen review board appointed by the Mayor who reviews permitting decisions made by the Regulated Industries Department.