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Banquet Halls May Require Special Use Permits to Serve Alcohol

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Banquet Halls May Require Special Use Permits to Serve Alcohol

by James Coulter

Planning on opening a new banquet hall in Winter Haven? You might need to seek a special use permit if you plan on serving alcohol.

Winter Haven City Commissioners are considering approving an amendment to the city code that would require banquet halls to apply for special use permits if they plan on serving alcoholic beverages at their hosted events.

At their city commission meeting on Monday, city commissioners reviewed the first reading of an ordinance that would amend the city code, thus requiring banquet halls to apply for special use permits if they plan on serving alcohol at their establishment.

Currently, the city code permits banquet halls to serve alcohol if they are in a shopping center or are more than 150 feet from a property zoned as agriculture (AG), residential estate (RE), single-family residential (R-1, R-2), or manufactured home park (RM) zoning districts.

If they are not inside a shopping center or within 150 feet from those designated zoning districts, they are required to be reviewed by the Planning Commission for a special use, according to the ordinance summary.

The proposed city code amendment will require future banquet halls, regardless of their location, to be reviewed by the Planning Commission for a special use permit. All current banquet halls will be able to continue operating if the ordinance is approved; however, as the summary states, “any expansion or cessation of the use would require the pre-existing banquet hall to apply for a special use.”

“The City’s Police Department and Code Compliance Division have noted an increase in businesses operating under the definition of a banquet hall, but creating impacts expected of a large-scale drinking establishment,” the ordinance summary states. “These proposed amendments to the approval process will help mitigate impacts by allowing the use to be more closely examined for compatibility at a particular location and provide the Planning Commission an opportunity to impose appropriate conditions to lessen impacts of the use.”

City staff recommends that the city commission approve the ordinance, and the planning commission voted unanimously to recommend the ordinance’s approval. The city commission will review and vote on the ordinance at their July 23 meeting.

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