August 25, 2009 10:54:00 AM
WEST POINT -- The potentially muddy waters surrounding West Point''s plan to apply for resort status for its downtown district from the office of Alcoholic Beverage Control cleared considerably Monday.
"The application that we submit will only request resort status for the Ritz (Theater and Restaurant)," said West Point Mayor Scott Ross. "If further requests are made, we''ll deal with them one at a time."
Ownership for the Ritz appeared before West Point''s Board of Selectmen in July at Ross'' suggestion, to ask for a resolution to apply for resort status. Under resort status, a business already holding a liquor license is allowed to serve alcohol beyond state-regulated hours, as well as on Sundays.
Representatives for the Ritz were under the impression they were applying for resort status exclusively for the Ritz, but a standard clause in the application added, "And such surrounding area as the City deems appropriate."
The city board unanimously approved the Ritz''s request with the understanding that the refurbished historic theater would be the only business affected.
"The only knowledge I had is that it was the Ritz and only the Ritz," said West Point Ward 3 Selectman Charles Collins.
Without notice to the board or the Ritz, the "appropriate" area grew to encompass much of downtown West Point.
Ross said he and his staff set the perimeter.
"We came up with it. Essentially, (the border encompasses) the downtown business district that''s part of the historic district without going into residential neighborhoods," said Ross.
The resort area was expanded to attract other "high-quality" establishments to the district, Ross noted. Any existing businesses licensed to sell alcohol within the prescribed area also would receive resort privileges.
Among those privileges is the freedom to sell alcohol all day every day if the city neglects to set serving hours, but Ross says that''s an unrealistic scenario.
"Under no circumstances would there ever be 24/7 alcohol sales in downtown West Point. I don''t think anyone''s looking for some kind of all-night joint. We want high-quality establishments like the Ritz," he said.
Milton and Christy Sundbeck, owners of the Ritz, say they have no intention to sell alcohol late into the night and made their request to the city board to better serve wedding parties or other special events. They also said they were unaware of any plans to extend the resort area.
"It sounds like the Ritz is trying to promote this, and that''s not true," said Milton Sundbeck.
Under state law, any municipality applying for resort status must first publish a legal notice stating the city''s intentions.
No legal notice regarding the resort application appeared until nearly a month after the Ritz''s appeal to the board, Christy Sundbeck noted. When it did appear, the expanded area was included.
"It just snowballed into something we don''t want to be a part of," she said. "Our biggest concern is the civic organizations that stood up and said ''Yes. We''ll write you a letter (to the ABC) because we like what you''re doing for the city.'' They wrote (the letters) with the specific understanding of, ''We''re in support of the Ritz.''"
One of the ABC''s requirements for considering resort status is written support from local civic organizations.
Christy Sundbeck said the Ritz isn''t opposed to other downtown businesses receiving resort status, but they should complete the process on their own.
"We''re not trying to have a monopoly on the late night alcohol business, but take the steps we did and do it right. Don''t ride our coattails," she said.