In a decision that had been postponed for almost three months, the Ann Arbor City Council approved last night by a 8-3 vote a liquor license for near-campus restaurant Quickie Burger.
Granted a Class-C liquor license, which costs about $75,000, the owners of Quickie Burger now may serve beer, wine and liquor on restaurant premises.
Quickie Burger, situated in the commercial strip at the intersection of South State Street and Hill Street, is the first restaurant permitted to serve alcohol in the largely student-populated area.
Councilman Steve Rapundalo (D-Ward 2), head of the Council’s liquor committee, raised concerns about the license before it was approved on Monday. With Quickie Burger located “right in the heart of student country,” the license posed potential policing problems and public safety concerns, he said.
Councilwoman Marcia Higgins (D-Ward 4) and newly appointed Councilman Christopher Taylor (D-Ward 3) joined Rapundalo in voting against Quickie Burger’s request for a license.
Citing prior approval from Ann Arbor police and fire services, the City treasurer and the City’s Planning and Development team, the seven remaining members of Council expressed few reasons to deny the request. Quickie Burger owners had paid the required application fee, received full support from the City staff charged with reviewing the request and had no delinquent property taxes on the restaurant.
Councilwoman Margie Teall (D-Ward 4), who said she had held earlier concerns about granting the license, voted to approve the measure. She said it could increase foot traffic and bring more activity to the surrounding neighborhood.
“I’ve gone back and forth with this, but I will be supporting it,” Teall said. “I think it’s an area that could use some vibrancy and some attention.”
Councilman Mike Anglin (D-Ward 5), who also supported the measure, said approval of the license was an important demonstration of support for locally owned businesses.
“We speak a great deal about encouraging business and bringing business in, but we also have to be very careful that we don’t drive business out,” Anglin said. “So in this process we have to be very careful of how we treat our current businesses.”
When the liquor license was brought up for consideration at yesterday’s meeting, City Council discussed the issue for nearly 30 minutes. Quickie Burger owner Karope Arman was present to answer questions from the Council.
Council members voiced concerns over Arman’s plans to serve alcohol in a seasonal outdoor seating area on the Hill Street side of the property, but Arman said he hoped the liquor license would bring new customers to the restaurant.
“Our whole reason is to give people an additional reason to come to Quickie Burger,” he said.
Arman added that he hoped serving alcohol would attract more of the city’s permanent residents, which he said was “the clientele we’re really interested in.”
Though about 30 percent of Quickie Burger’s business is currently done between 2 and 4 a.m., Arman said his restaurant’s status as a popular post-bar spot wouldn’t change with the new liquor license. The law mandates that alcohol cannot be sold after 2 a.m. in Ann Arbor.
Newly appointed Councilwoman Sandi Smith (D-Ward 1), who replaced outgoing Councilman Ron Suarez when she was sworn in last night, said Quickie Burger’s reputation for doing late-night business would likely be an important incentive to follow the guidelines that come with serving alcohol.
“Having a liquor license on site will help them have some control and now they have a lot more to lose,” she said.
Smith said she suspected the threat of losing their liquor license would also force Quickie Burger owners to “make an effort to curb the rowdiness.”
Varujan Arman, co-owner of Quickie Burger, said the restaurant has had no serious confrontations between customers since the restaurant opened in March.