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CITY COUNCIL WITHDRAWS SUPPORT FOR LIQUOR LICENSE

SHARE CITY COUNCIL WITHDRAWS SUPPORT FOR LIQUOR LICENSE

Following a dispute over whether the St. George Tabernacle is a church, the City Council has withdrawn its support of a liquor license for a restaurant near the LDS building.

The action Thursday night came after the council decided the restaurant was too close to the tabernacle, which it decided was a church.Utah law prohibits the dispensing of alcoholic beverages within 600 feet of a church without a special variance. The restaurant, Mama Eddy's, is 502 feet from the historic structure.

A request for a variance was denied.

The controversy began in June when the City Council - considering the tabernacle a historic building rather than a house of worship - gave its consent to the restaurant's request, which ultimately will be decided by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

The presiding bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the tabernacle was a church. Liquor officials then asked the City Council if it wanted to reconsider its decision. It did.

"We just assumed it was a public or historic building and never discussed if it was a church," Councilman Larry Gardner said Thursday night.

Alan Boyack, a lawyer for Mama Eddy's owner, Jerry Baker, said no religious service has been held in the 119-year-old building since 1956, but it has been the site of concerts, funerals and other secular events.

The restaurant cannot even be seen from the tabernacle, "unless you come from the planet Pluton," said Boyack.

Bruce Stucki, area authority for the church, said that in the past 18 months there have been two church stake conferences in the tabernacle and other events.

"They are all of a religious nature," Stucki said.

Baker said he plans to explore the matter with the American Civil Liberties Union.