Applebee's plans Port Lavaca store, wants to extend alcohol sales
Applebee's is coming to Port Lavaca - maybe.
The restaurant chain's entrance into the Port Lavaca market is contingent upon extending alcohol sales to 2 a.m. - something the town's City Council has agreed to do, but that may run into opposition.
City Manager Bob Turner said the extended alcohol sales hours was brought up during negotiations with Applebee's that began in August. At present, alcohol sales in Port Lavaca must stop at midnight, except Saturday, when 1 a.m. is the cutoff.
On March 11, the council voted 4-2 to approve the ordinance extending sales until 2 a.m. The ordinance will go into effect April 25.
Kevin LeVrier, pastor of Freedom House Assembly of God Church, is opposed to extending the hours.
He has vowed to submit a petition with the required 200 signatures of registered voters that would repeal the ordinance.
"My concern and the concern of anyone against this ordinance is what could happen in those two hours people would be given to continue to consume alcohol," LeVrier said.
"Once the ordinance goes into effect on April 25, the petition will happen. I'm doing the footwork on it now."
If the petition is submitted and the ordinance repealed, the matter would then be put on the November ballot for voters to decide its fate.
But, as far as Applebee's is concerned, that would be too late.
"Applebee's intended to break ground in June and be open on Sept. 1, so postponing the passing of this ordinance would change their timeline," Turner said. "They will simply move on. It would be unfortunate to miss out on this opportunity."
Applebee's has already purchased land at the intersection of state Highway 35 and Virginia Street next to Walgreen's, Turner said.
The restaurant would seat between 150 and 170. It would also have a patio area.
"They bought the entire lot anticipating the possibility of an expansion to their patio since we are on the coast with long, breezy summer evenings," Turner said.
"They expect to hire about 90 employees with 55-60 to become permanent, again depending on sales. Obviously, that would depend on the way they are received and their customer base."
LeVrier said the issue isn't about growth.
"A lot of people are calling this an economic development issue, but it's not," he said. "If it was an economic development issue, then Applebee's wouldn't stipulate they aren't coming without the liquor sales extension.
"I'm not against Applebee's, just the stipulation."
Turner thinks the restaurant would be a good addition to Port Lavaca.
"A majority of the City Council believe having an Applebee's in Port Lavaca will be good for economic development - growth which has been negligible for over 40 years - and a clear indication that we are ready for change," Turner said.
"I personally believe they will be great community partners and will have a very positive influence on our community."
Applebee's did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.