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Kansas City Schools And Churches Lose Extra Power Over Whether Bars Can Open Nearby

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Center School District
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The Center School District wanted to be able to maintain an 'elevated role' in decisions about whether businesses with liquor licenses could locate within 300 feet of a school.

School districts and churches in Kansas City, Missouri, will no longer have increased power to keep liquor stores and bars out of neighborhoods.

On Thursday, the Kansas City Council unanimously passed an ordinance saying that churches and school districts have the same level of input as homeowners and other property owners when it comes to approvals for new bars and restaurants.

Previously, bars and restaurants selling liquor could not open within 300 feet of a school or church without the consent of those schools or churches.

“The City legally cannot allow the managing authority of a church or school to solely decide whether a liquor license will be issued based on the distance from a church or school,” according to the ordinance fact sheet prepared by the city’s Regulated Industries Division.

Jim Ready, manager of Regulated Industries, said that the city realized it was out of compliance with best practices by letting schools and churches have an extra say. "For legality reasons," he said, this put the city back in compliance.

The ordinance won’t allow a business with a new liquor license to open within 100 feet of a school or church. Also, preexisting businesses within 300 feet are prohibited from expanding to include liquor sales.

Center School District spokesperson Christina Medina said their concern has been about encouraging a healthy environment.

“We still would have like to have had that elevated role so that we could have that voice for our students and for our families,” Medina said.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson is a reporter at KCUR 89.3 and part of the public radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Kansas City, St. Louis, Hartford, Connecticut and Portland, Oregon. She can be contacted at michelle@kcur.org.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with essential news and information.
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