KGOU

Cornett’s New Role An Economic Boon? New Restriction For Bricktown Businesses

Jul 22, 2016

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett has been a prominent figure during this week’s Republican National Convention.

He delivered speech Monday on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, having just taken over as the group’s president in June. Oklahoma City’s elections are technically non-partisan, but Cornett does identify as a Republican (he made it to a runoff with Gov. Mary Fallin in the 2006 Congressional primary when they vied for U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook’s old seat). During Cornett’s address in Cleveland earlier this week, he talked a lot about the success of Republican mayors across the country.

“We are building cities where Millennials are choosing to live. We’re investing in public safety, and streets, and parks. We are helping to restore confidence in America,” Cornett said.

He’s been a highly visible mayor nationwide for several years, and just a few months from now he’s going to bring about 40 of his colleagues and many more guests for a leadership symposium. The Journal Record’s Brian Brus reports Oklahoma City could see a slight economic bump during Cornett’s year-long post leading the USCOM:

Just before he took the position, he led the organization’s Mayor’s Institute on City Design, which brought about 25 mayors who had not visited before to the metro.

“I think my involvement in the organization took off in 2010 when we held the annual summer conference here,” he said. “A couple hundred mayors came to visit then, with a thousand people. That has led to a lot of inter-city visits. They saw what we were accomplishing and went back home to get their own business communities involved.”

“Oklahoma has become a well-known standard now for rebuilding the core of the city, for becoming walkable and improving our infrastructure,” he said. “Because I’m interviewed much more now, those types of things come up more and we get attention for it.”

“The director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Tom Cochran, called him the best rep and the best salesperson for Oklahoma City. And part of it is because he can talk about such a broad range of issues,” said The Journal Record’s managing editor Adam Brooks. “It's everything from the Oklahoma City Thunder coming here to leading the commemorations of the Oklahoma City bombing to his famous ‘Putting The City on a Diet’ campaign.”

Men talk near the entrance to Pink Parrot Cantina in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown. New businesses to the district that want to serve alcohol must now apply for special zoning.
Credit Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

Higher Bar For Bricktown

Cornett wasn’t at Tuesday’s city council meeting, where a series of amendments to the city’s municipal code were proposed that will affect new businesses in Bricktown. The Planning Department’s Lisa Chronister said any business that wants to serve alcohol have to apply for what’s known as an ABC-3 overlay.

“That would give adjacent property owners, other business owners in the area an opportunity to voice concerns about noise, traffic, crime – what they don’t have an opportunity to do now.”

Brooks says when the entertainment area was initially developed, establishments received a special exemption so the area would grow.

“I think everybody would agree we have plenty of bars and restaurants in that area,” Brooks said. “Part of this is looking for a little balance. They want things to be a little more family-friendly and bring in a slightly more diverse crowd to Bricktown.”

Charles Stout, the general manager of the Bricktown Brewery, said he’d be against the idea if he thought it would hurt his and his neighbors’ businesses. But he told Brus it’s leveling the playing field with the rest of Oklahoma City:

“The district is clearly as successful as it’s ever been,” said Stout, who launched his business in 1992. “There’s a lot of new business, a lot of activity, but we’ve also grown up a lot. And one of the biggest complaints I hear from friends is that they would like to see more retail. … This is probably the right thing to do if it’s been unfair to Automobile Alley or Film Row or any other district trying to develop.”

The city does not issue alcoholic beverage licenses; that’s the state’s job. Instead, the Planning Commission reviews the zone overlay that allows a bar, restaurant or tavern to sell alcohol before putting each application before the City Council for approval. The process can take up to 100 days in addition to changes to the underlying zone itself.

Once an alcohol overlay application is approved, it’s permanently attached to the site. Commissioners have asked the city planning staff to review current policies for possible refinements that would affect the entire city.

The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.

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