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Churches in historic 18th and Vine area opposed to more alcohol

Churches in a historically important Kansas City neighborhood could soon have new unwelcome neighbors. More bars with all the problems that come with alcohol.

For decades, schools and churches across the city have been protected by an ordinance requiring alcohol-serving businesses to be further than 300 feet away from their doors unless the church or school approved it. That changed this week as the Kansas City council voted to allow more bars into the city’s the historic 18th and Vine District by exempting the area from the ordinance.

Councilman Jermaine Reed, who represents the 3rd district, sponsored the proposal, which strips away formerly long-standing requirements that protected children and houses of worship. Reed was strongly opposed by his district’s fellow council member, Quinton Lucas.

In Kansas City, bars are limited to one liquor license per 1,500 residents who live near the establishment. Reed’s proposal would exempt 18th and Vine from those restrictions, similar to other entertainment districts like Westport or Power and Light though Power and Light doesn’t have any schools or churches nearby .

It passed 10 to 3. Those voting against the ordinance were Alissia Canady, Quinton Lucas and Scott Taylor.

One of the four churches in the 18th & Vine District, Grace Temple Nondenominational Church on Highland Avenue, objected to the new businesses. Rev. Demean Ellis, says existing businesses in the district that already serve alcohol had been a source of noise, vandalism and serious crime. He was supported by some other east side ministers.

Councilman Reed contends the proposal will help promote growth in the district but doesn’t have an ansawer for the negative side effects.

“This policy change moves 18th & Vine in the right direction, and by bringing in new businesses, we can expect to see an increase in sales and use taxes, earnings taxes, and convention and tourism taxes,” Reed said.

Councilwoman Alissia Canady pointed out that churches are an important voice in the area. She said throughout the district’s ups and downs that churches have been the one constantn providing stability and serving as a force for neighborhood redevelopment.

“When banks have left, when schools have failed, the church has been the constant institution in the black community,” Canady said.

Coucilman Lucas proposed an amendment that would have preserved the first part of Reed’s measure (the density requirement) but dropped the part that would exempt 18th and Vine from the church requirement.

The amendment to protect churches and schools failed on a 7 to 6 vote.