After a lengthy work session on Monday night, Saline City Council still had much to do. Following a half-hour discussion of Jon Hess’s follow up review of the police department, Council took up a liquor license application for the new Emagine Theater, listened to a presentation by the Saline Planning Commission, approved new fees, discussed their own salaries and more.
Paul Glantz, founder and chairman of Emagine Entertainment, Inc. came to answer questions concerning the liquor license application. Also in his entourage were J. Patrick Howe, an attorney with expertise in liquor laws and Scott Largent, the incoming general manager of Emagine Saline.
The liquor license discussion was a public hearing, so the public was invited to comment. John Olsen, Executive Director of Saline Area Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of approval.
Olsen reassured council members that by whatever pathway it is obtained, the granting of liquor license is a careful process. He said that the Michigan Liquor Control Commission “does not grant licenses willy-nilly.” He also said local business leaders were “excited beyond belief” about the full-service theater.
“I think this theater is interesting in that it’s a trend in the market place and it’s the way theaters are evolving and moving at this point in time,” Olsen said. “To me it’s exciting that we can be on the cutting edge of this change in the industry.”
As Olsen noted, there are different approaches to obtaining liquor licenses. For all eight Michigan theaters he has already opened, Glantz obtained quota licenses, but for the Saline theater, he is seeking a resort license.
“Ideally we apply for a quota license, but there were none available,” attorney Howe said. “Our next step was to look for escrowed licenses within the county. We sent certified letters to all the escrowed licensees and, getting no response, we’re here tonight asking for a resort license.”
The application must be approved by both the City of Saline and the state, and there are limits on the number of resort licenses that the state can grant per year. Janet Dillon asked what would happen if the license application was rejected.
“This is our business plan; it’s our concept; we really don’t have a plan B,” Glantz said. “But we’re 90 percent toward completion and so, at the end of the day, the theater will open on March 17.”
Howe said he was confident that the company would be able to obtain the license because they were applying early in the year and the state would want to reward their multimillion dollar investment. They also have a stellar record of compliance.
Several council members had questions about liquor control and security issues.
“We take our responsibility for the administration of alcohol very seriously,” Glantz said. “We put protocols in place such that each and every one of our bartenders and managers must attend techniques of alcohol management.”
Glantz went on to say that they have low-light surveillance cameras in the theaters as well as cameras at food vending stations and the bar. They are careful not to overserve alcoholic beverages to any customers and customers are not allowed to buy a drink for someone else.
Council member Dean Girbach was concerned about whether the liquor license might be transferable to someone else. Howe said that that the license was attached to the theater business and could not be sold or passed on to any other business.
Girbach moved to approve the license, seconded by council member Heidi McClelland. Council voted to approve the request unanimously.
Council Turns Down Recommended Wage Increases
In January, Saline’s Local Officers Compensation Commission met to make recommendations about salaries for the mayor and City Council members. The commission recommended a three percent pay increase for all, raising the Mayor’s yearly salary to $4,800 and Council member salary to $2,790.
Mary Hess, chair of the Compensation Commission said that she hoped they would accept a small raise, adding that “you all are worth so much more.”
Council, however, chose to reject the pay increase. Several of them pointed out that they had asked city staff to forgo a pay increase and could not, in good conscience, accept one for themselves. They told Ms. Hess, “thanks, but no thanks.”
Marl agreed, noting that he doesn’t do his job for the money and would do it even if the pay was zero. Girbach moved to reject the pay increase, which was seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Linda TerHaar. The vote was unanimous.
Council Approves Fee Book Changes
Council also discussed proposed fee book changes. The fee book lists fees charged for various city services.
The changes would apply to sewer and water connection charges, permit fees for child care centers and permit fees for group home day care centers. The only significant controversy was on how to phase in the sewer and water rates.
The proposal was that the city should begin phasing in the new connection charges on July 1, 2017, increasing the fee a little each year until the target rate is achieved in five years. To better accommodate developers in the process of building developments, Marl thought that the starting date of the rate increases should be pushed back another year.
After some discussion, it became apparent that Marl’s opinion was not shared by Council. The consensus was that the proposed new fee schedule already accommodated business interests through the five-year phase in.
When it came to a vote, the proposal was approved unanimously with the July 1, 2017 starting date.