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Bloomington Seeks to Regulate Chain Restaurants Downtown

The City Council is considering a resolution that would make it harder for chain businesses to move into downtown cultural districts like Courthouse Square.

Restaurants looking to move into downtown Bloomington could face tougher scrutiny after a proposed resolution was approved at Wednesday evening’s Common Council meeting.

The Council voted 8-0 in favor of the resolution, which was initiated by the city administration.

The ordinance would increase the level of scrutiny chain establishments would face if moving into downtown areas. The areas in question are the Courthouse Square Overlay, and the University Village Overlay, which encompasses the Kirkwood Avenue and 4th Street Restaurant Districts.

Tom Micuda, Planning Director for the City of Bloomington, says this is an important discussion to have right now.  Micuda says there are properties in play in these areas that will be up for development in the near future.

“These are areas that really are truly cherished by all of Bloomington, whether you’re for the proposal or against the proposal, as unique and important,” Micuda said.  “And we think that one of the aspects of this area that makes it unique and important is balance and diversity.”

The resolution is a scaled back version of a resolution Mayor Mark Kruzan initially proposed in 2009 that sought to restrict standardized establishments.  The resolution was met with strong opposition, however, and didn’t get beyond discussion.

During public comment, many questioned the resolution’s legality, fairness, and economic impact, led by a large delegation from the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.

For Liz Irwin, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, the proposal raises a lot of concerns.

“From our members’ perspective, this is a real problem,” Irwin said. “We want a chance to be able to look at the impacts, we want to look at the economic impacts, not just on our restaurants but on the other businesses downtown and the property owners and their ability to get the best tenants for their businesses that they can.”

The planning commission will start crafting the ordinance at their meeting on March 10.

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