Some of Gearhart’s most prestigious streets are nicknamed “Gin Ridge,” for the summertime cocktail culture of the city’s early residents.
But the City Council has opted to keep downtown limited to beer and wine under zoning amendments designed to support local businesses and, in some cases, bring them up to compliance.
The council made one last tweak, at the request of City Councilor Kerry Smith, modifying language pertaining to alcohol sales at neighborhood cafes.
While hard liquor may be sold in the commercial area along U.S. Highway 101, downtown stores should not sell spirits, Smith said. “I do not want to see people walking outside with a cocktail to-go cup. I do not want liquor sold in our C-1 zone,” he said at a meeting Wednesday. “We’ve never had a hard liquor establishment in downtown Gearhart and I’m opposed to having one starting now.”
When the Gearhart Crossing market and pub closed in 2018, planning commissioners identified a need to address business vacancies in the commercial core, City Planner Carole Connell wrote in a November report.
The Planning Commission sought to modify the zoning code to improve the vitality of the city center while maintaining the quiet residential character called for in the city’s comprehensive plan. The amendments bring downtown businesses into code compliance while eliminating some of the outdated and restrictive language.
If the amendments are approved in subsequent readings, downtown businesses will be able to use 50% of their property for residential purposes. Parking requirements for eating and drinking establishments will be eased, and a 10 p.m. closing time eliminated. Cafes may offer outdoor and sidewalk seating for patrons.
Mayor Paulina Cockrum said downtown should reflect the city’s family feel. “It’s hard for me to be on board with hard liquor alcohol,” she said.
City Councilor Dan Jesse disagreed. “I don’t see the difference between beer and wine and hard alcohol,” he said. “The idea of controlling something like this just seems really counterintuitive to society’s wants and wishes.”
Cockrum, Smith, City Councilor Brent Warren and City Councilor Reita Fackerell voted in favor of the zoning amendments in their first reading. Jesse voted against the amendments.
A second reading will come at February’s City Council meeting.