City lets Replay keep liquor license

Commissioners to rethink rules governing downtown watering holes

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The Replay will continue in play.

Faced with an overflow crowd of supporters troubled about the future of the popular concert venue and watering hole at 946 Mass., the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to grant a waiver that allows the bar to stay in business.

"It's a very important part of the local music scene," Commissioner Boog Highberger said. "The local music scene is what makes Lawrence Lawrence."

City codes generally prohibit alcohol sales within 400 feet of a church. The Replay Lounge has been in business for a decade, but its city-issued drinking license inadvertently lapsed last spring -- the city failed to send out a renewal notice -- and the bar had to reapply for its waiver from the code.

Salvation Army, which sits a block away at 946 N.H., opposed the waiver request.

Rich Forney, the church administrator, sent a letter suggesting continued alcohol sales at The Replay would be detrimental to the homeless population his church serves.

"That close proximity may be just enough of a temptation to set some people back from what they have accomplished in their rehabilitation," Forney wrote.

But he added: "To the best of my knowledge, we have had no problems with the Replay Lounge up to this time."

The Replay received support Tuesday from East Lawrence Neighborhood Assn. president Ed Tato, a poet who described himself as a "Saturday night fixture" at the Replay.

"It's a lot like East Lawrence," Tato said of the bar. "It's a little bit funky, a little bit misunderstood, and it's definitely unique."

Mayor David Dunfield said the commission should reconsider the relevance of the 400-foot requirement.

In the meantime, Dunfield said, "I'm not willing to have the city act to put a good business out of business on a technicality."

The commission will consider changes to downtown drinking establishment rules at a study session 9 a.m. Feb. 18 in City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.