OGDEN — A push to allow more drinking establishments downtown was narrowly approved by the Ogden City Council on Tuesday night.
By a vote of 4-3, the council approved a zoning amendment that will allow up to three drinking establishments on each side of a city block in Ogden’s Central Business District Intensive Zone. The city’s CBD includes all land from 20th to 27th streets between Wall and Adams avenues, while the “intensive zone” is made up of a swath of land inside that area where businesses are most highly concentrated.
The proposal, at its core, was spearheaded by Thaine Fischer. The longtime Ogden developer had twice previously petitioned the city to change the definition of a linear block to include only one side of a street, rather than both sides. Prior to Tuesday’s amendment, Ogden code allowed for only two 21-and-over drinking establishments per block.
Fischer petitioned the city to consider a similar proposal clear back in 2009, but that was ultimately denied. His second proposal was submitted in 2015. In recent years, 25th Street’s Alleged lounge owner Jared Allen joined Fischer in the push. The pair have said the city’s now former limit on downtown drinking establishments stifles economic growth and has already negatively impacted their development prospects.
The city planning division developed an alternate proposal for the issue, slightly different from Fischer’s original request, which officials say meets the intent behind the initial appeal. The allowance of three drinking establishments per side of a linear block includes any businesses located on the corner of a block or with a publicly accessible door on the block regardless of the establishment’s street address, which essentially closes a loophole that could have theoretically allowed business to exceed the limit.
Council members Doug Stephens, Ben Nadolski and Rich Hyer voted against the measure.
Throughout the multi-year process to increase the number of drinking establishments allowed, particularly on 25th Street, some have theorized that doing so would increase that need for police response there and make the street feel less safe, eroding 40 years of city work to improve the atmosphere along Ogden’s most famous street. City officials and others have spent decades transforming 25th Street’s image from that of a mostly vacant, crime-ridden bar strip to a more family-friendly destination with a variety of businesses.
The Ogden Planning Commission previously denied one of Fischer’s previous zoning amendment proposals on this basis.
“The statement is, if we don’t learn from history we’re doomed to repeat it,” Hyer said, explaining his no vote. “I’ve never been a resident of another city for any length of time, I’m also pretty old. When I was young, 25th Street was not any place you would want to travel. ... It has taken decades for us to get the genie back in the bottle and have 25th Street to start to develop in a healthy way.”
Council members voting for the measure, like new Council Chair Bart Blair, said they understood the concern but ultimately believe the ordinance will do more good than harm. Nadolski said he went back and forth on his vote and “narrowly” decided to vote against the measure.
Fischer and Allen both lauded the passage of the amendment on Tuesday. Fischer has performed several historic renovations in or near Ogden’s downtown over the past decade, including the buildings that house Pig & a Jelly Jar, Even Stevens Sandwiches, Harley & Bucks, Stellas and The Monarch. The developer said he’s been approached by several high-end Salt Lake City restaurants who are interested in moving to 25th Street but would be unable to do so under current code. Fischer said the restaurants serve alcohol and are only open to patrons over the age of 21.
“It’s been actually since 2009, from the original (proposal),” Fischer said. “I think we’ve all matured since then and so has the downtown. I think this is great for economic development, tourism and our vision for night life.”