MARIETTA - A pizza shop owned by a former mayor and councilman obtained the last remaining D5 liquor permit in November.
The permit was issued to the Over the Moon Pizza and Pub at 170 Front St., owned by City Council President Michael "Moon" Mullen and his wife, Claire Mullen.
The pizzaria obtained the last remaining D5 permit in town, the issuance of which opens the door for the city to establish a downtown revitalization district and qualify for up to 15 additional D5 liquor licenses. A letter of application has to be filed with Mayor Joe Matthews before city council can consider creating the revitalization district.
Claire Mullen, co-owner of Over the Moon Pizza and Pub at 170 Front St., draws a beer from the restaurant’s new tap installed after the pizzaria obtained a state liquor license. (Photo by Sam Shawver)
"We've had the license for a week now, and we're already seeing an uptick in business, especially during the evenings," Claire Mullen said.
"And we've put up a new sign indicating we're now also a pub."
The shop was in business for more than two years and was called the Over the Moon Pizzeria.
"But serving beer and wine was part of our original business plan-pizza and beer, or wine with your spaghetti is an American tradition," Michael Mullen said. "Now we have beer on tap or in bottles, and we serve wine by the glass or bottled."
A D5 permit allows for the sale of Spirituous liquor for on-premises consumption only, beer, wine and mixed beverages for on premises, or off premises in original sealed containers until 2:30 a.m., according to the Ohio Division of Liquor.
Obtaining the liquor permit was no easy task as all of the city's available liquor licenses had supposedly been taken when the Mullens opened shop in July 2010.
"We engaged an attorney from Columbus to try to get a liquor license before we opened, but none was found available, so we were put on a list of businesses interested in obtaining a permit when the next opportunity came up," Michael Mullen said.
Shortly after opening the pizza business, Mullen, who was mayor of Marietta at the time, discovered a new state law allowing small cities to establish downtown revitalization districts that qualify for additional liquor licenses for restaurants that locate within those districts.
He proposed a downtown revitalization district to Marietta City Council, but the members had concerns that approving the proposal could be seen as a conflict of interest for the mayor who had just opened his new restaurant.
The proposal also not was warmly welcomed by some area bars and restaurant owners that already had liquor licenses in town and the idea was shelved.
But in August of this year the issue was resurrected as current Mayor Joe Matthews received an application requesting creation of a revitalization district from Jason Legraen, acting on behalf of Dr. Roger Anderson, owner of several downtown properties. Anderson already held one liquor license in Marietta.
"My primary reason for going forward with the revitalization district application was that additional liquor licenses would help increase business and benefit Marietta," Anderson said Wednesday. "It would impact economic development in the city."
Anyone wanting to establish a restaurant business that serves wine or beer in Marietta would currently not be able to obtain a liquor license because the permits have all been taken.
"But they can easily obtain a permit in West Virginia across the river in Williamstown or Parkersburg," Anderson said. "The lack of available permits is taking business out of Marietta."
More restaurants and other businesses are needed as this area is on the verge of an oil and gas boom from Ohio's Utica and Marcellus shale deposits, Anderson said.
"It's our choice to have that boom in Marietta or let it go to Parkersburg or Williamstown," Anderson said.
Anderson's initial application to establish a downtown revitalization district was found to be invalid in September because at that time the city had one D5 liquor permit that was still available.
City law director Paul Bertram III said the open permit was discovered by the Ohio Liquor Control Board while Bertram was doing research on establishing the revitalization district. He said the city could not qualify for a district until all existing liquor licenses were taken.
The Mullens immediately applied for that permit and were granted the liquor license this month.
"If we had known that permit was available we would have had it from the beginning," Michael Mullen said. "It was a no-brainer to apply for that last D5 license. We were ready for it."
The Mullens said even though they now have their liquor license, they still support a revitalization district in Marietta.
"We've seen how it has worked in other cities like Wooster," Michael Mullen said.
Wooster, the first city to establish a revitalization district, obtained five additional liquor licenses, designated D5l permits for revitalization districts only. All five of those licenses are now being used by eateries located within Wooster's district.
"Downtowns are so fragile in these communities, and we need a way to provide more opportunities for businesses to succeed," said Michael Mullen, currently a councilman. "Marietta is already a tourist mecca, and we need to be able to support those visitors with services and restaurants that complement our area attractions."
Marietta Councilman Roger Kalter, chairman of council's planning and zoning committee, said another application would have to be filed to establish a revitalization district before that conversation could continue.
"We're now eligible to qualify for a revitalization district, but another letter requesting a district has not been received by the mayor's office at this time," he said. "I've had people asking about the revitalization district, and the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce is behind it, but someone has to submit an application to the mayor before we can put it back on the table."
Another application may be filed after the first of the year, Anderson said.
"Revitalization would help level the playing field and keep business in Marietta," he said. "If not, all of that economic development will go across the river."