The Bloomington Common Council is scheduled to discuss an ordinance tonight that would limit chain restaurants downtown.
If passed, the ordinance would require all chain restaurants to be approved by the city’s Boarding Zone of Appeals before opening in the area near Kirkwood and the courthouse square.
City Planner Tom Micuda says the proposal is key to preserving the diversity and character of downtown Bloomington, which in turn bodes well for long-term economic development.
“The unique feel and character over the longer haul is such an economic development asset to the city of Bloomington,” he says. “For the long-term, we want to make sure that we preserve that unique character and eclectic nature of these areas.”
An earlier form of the proposal presented in March ran up against criticism from the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. The city has since amended the measure, with less-stringent regulations focusing more on how the restaurants’ exteriors should look rather than on the type of restaurant.
Bloomington Chamber of Commerce President Jeb Conrad says the chamber stands behind the amended ordinance.
“We certainly think it’s a huge and vast improvement over the original, which placed those limitations that were really going to make it really challenging to track and bring new restaurants into the downtown area,” he said.
But the ordinance still has its opponents.
Bloomington Independent Restaurant Association Board Member Denny Stalter says the government is still overstepping its boundaries.
“I’m not rooting for more competition, definitely,” he says, “But at some point, where’s the city’s—where do they draw the line at what they’re going to control in the town?”
The amendment will likely come to a vote later this month.
WFIU’s David Hamilton contributed to this report.