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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Proposed Uptown 23rd Church


My Tuesday column has prompted quite a bit of discussion and questions about OKC Community Church wanting to buy a storefront immediately east of the Tower Theater. As I wrote, this move would stop the openings of any more bars like Grandad's from opening within 300 feet of the church, and the effect of blocking ABC-3 zoning for alcohol sales also could jeopardize redevelopment of the theater.

The church and its pastor are not talking. But readers are asking a lot of good questions, so here is FAQ on the matter.

Q: What is ABC-3 zoning?

A: ABC-3 zoning is required when an establishment's primary sales consist of alcohol, and food sales are less than 51 percent of what is sold. Grandad's sells no food, and is a classic example of a bar that requires ABC-3 zoning. The Tower Theater has an ABC-3 zoning from the city, but it can not get the ABC-3 license to sell alcohol from the ABLE Commission until the building is fully renovated and has a certificate of occupancy fro the city.

Q: Can't the city council grant an exception?

A: No. The ABC-3 license is ultimately controlled by ABLE, the state agency that won the attention of urban core folks a few years ago when its agents shut down the first H&8th festival and rushed into the adjoining Ludevine during its Friday night dinner hour with guns and badges on what was a routine inspection.

Q: Can the church seek a change to the law?

A: Sure it can. Let's talk about the odds of lawmakers acting on such a request while we shop for wine at Whole Foods or visit Byron's Liquors on Sunday.

Q: But wait - Packards at NW 10 and Robinson has a bar and it is open across from Frontline Church. How is this different?

A: Packards is also a full-fledged restaurant and only required ABC-2 zoning.

Q: How is OKC Community Church moving to NW 23 any different than the Parish and District House opening along the Plaza District?

A: ABC-3 zoning is not allowed along the Plaza District, so this isn't a comparable situation. Several people who have heavily invested along Uptown NW 23 have a vision of creating a local version of Austin's famed bar and venue corridor, Congress Avenue.

Q: Couldn't the owners of the Tower Theater seek an ABC-3 before the church opens?

A: Only if the church was willing to wait for the theater to be fully renovated, which will take time, and leased with all permits obtained. ABC-3 zoning is not granted until a building renovation is completed and a certificate of occupancy is obtained.

Q: Is the church aware of these issues?

A: I don't know - they won't grant interviews and have told me they won't discuss the matter until the property purchase is completed.

Q: How close is the church to buying this property and starting renovations?

A: I have been told it is set to close soon, and design work has been underway since at least October and the plans indicate Lingo Construction has been hired for the job.

One of the last architectural landmarks downtown still awaiting a savior, this old church building is across the street from an active church and a block away from the already thriving NW 10 and Robinson. It is also near the new OCU law school and in walking distance of new housing and Automobile Alley.
One of the last architectural landmarks downtown still awaiting a savior, this old church building is across the street from an active church and a block away from the already thriving NW 10 and Robinson. It is also near the new OCU law school and in walking distance of new housing and Automobile Alley.

Q: Are you against churches joining the urban core revival?

A: Absolutely not. I wrote a column challenging churches to join the fun a few years ago. I do question why OKC Community Church and others don't look at taking on a great historic church building like the old First Church of the Scientist which is in the heart of a very hip Midtown neighborhood. This move would be far more like the one Frontline took with a very historic old building at NW 10 and Robinson (which made Frontline very popular with neighbors).

Q: Do we know why the church wants this property?

A: All we know is what is on what is posted on their webpage (which is topped by a photo of the iconic Tower Theater marquee):

"At times a conversation can become the genesis of a new idea, or the spark to make a dream a reality, or the last straw to compel someone to posses the courage to do what they've been called to do. The story of OKC Community began with this type of conversation. Tim and Christie Mannin knew they had to get serious about the things God had been stirring in them and the conversations led to receiving a call to plant a new church in Oklahoma City.

God began to shape the calling by first identifying where this church would be located. While driving down NW 23rd Street in OKC a picture of restoration was seen. The diverse nature of this area of Oklahoma City creates a unique place to carry out ministry. This area is historically known as Uptown and it is an area that many of us have grown to absolutely love. It’s eclectic, it’s diverse, and it’s brimming with renewal and a story of restoration. We are excited to join this story with our neighbors and our community. We are prayerful and are making efforts that not only physical renewal is occurring, but also gospel-centered restoration is happening in people’s lives. A type of restoration that we read about in the book of Isaiah."

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Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›

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