City council passes entertainment ordinance
A recent ordinance change by East Lansing City Council will increase the number of businesses required to acquire an entertainment license, but will not impact “dancing in East Lansing,” Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett said.
The amendment to Ordinance 1278 was passed during council’s May 15 meeting and went into effect last Wednesday. It expands the list of businesses that need an entertainment license to include businesses that provide entertainment, but do not fall under the classification of bars and restaurants. Businesses that served food and alcohol have been required to purchase an entertainment license since at least 1994, but did not include other business ventures that also may provide entertainment.
Triplett said the cost of an entertainment license depends on the square footage of the venue, beginning at about $50 and increasing in price in accordance with the venue’s size.
Chief Assistant City Attorney Dennis McGinty was unsure what motivated the change to the ordinance, but the amendment will impact some of the newer business models that have cropped up in East Lansing in recent months.
“This is an effort to expand the requirement to nontraditional venues where it’s not a bar or restaurant but a similar facility that wants to put on a show,” he said.
McGinty specifically mentioned Heart Beats, 301 M.A.C. Ave. — a karaoke, billiards and mahjong lounge that opened December 2011 — as one business that would fall under the new ordinance.
East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas said the increase in nontraditional ventures raised the issue of whether each business in the city was being treated fairly.
“So what they’re trying to do is have a sense of equity where you’re not favoring one business type over another,” he said.
After the ordinance went into effect, there were some criticisms in the community among members who felt the amendment would restrict dancing in the city. However, Triplett said the response
might have stemmed from a misreading of the ordinance and was “much ado about nothing.”
“I think these kind of stories tend to take on a life of their own, and that’s certainly
understandable,” he said. “But you need to take the time to read the ordinance and look at the fact that it’s been on the books in substantially the same form since at least 1994.”
Triplett said comparisons to the 1984 film “Footloose” — in which the act of dancing is outlawed in a small Western town — were inaccurate.
“While it would make it more interesting, the truth is it’s not ‘Footloose,’ and East Lansing is not Bomont,” he added.