Possible Zoning Changes for Downtown Bars

By: Cole Miller

W. Cecil Steward purchased his downtown property in 1973. More than 30 years later, he says bars in Lincoln may soon threaten urban life. Ideally, he wants to see more housing, which he says would support other forms of retail.

“The fact that entertainment is so accessible creates the new market for more housing and the more housing you have creates the vitality in the market for supporting those retail businesses. That's what I want the whole entire downtown to become,” says Steward.

Under his proposal, any new bar in downtown Lincoln would have to be at least 100 feet from buildings that have living space on the first floor. His proposal doesn't stop at residential buildings, but includes day cares, museums, schools, churches and youth recreational centers.

Ed Swoteck of the Downtown Lincoln Association says residents are split on whether this would be the right move. He disagrees with the proposal, but says more community conversation will be needed.

“All in all, the DLA received a wide variety of mixed responses to this amendment and it left many with more unanswered questions and concerns than perhaps what the amendment was originally intended to resolve,” said Swotek.

Joyce Durand has been a part of the Lincoln bar scene since the late 1960s and doesn't believe any change in zoning is necessary. “I've had a lot of fun downtown and I like the activity and vibrancy and I think that's why people come downtown. They don't come down there for peaceful serenity.”

The Planning Commission today decided to defer any action on this issue until November.