MONTEVIDEO -- Montevideo City Council members agreed to make it possible for a church to operate in a downtown building while also preserving the ability to continue issuing liquor licenses in its vicinity.
By its actions Monday, the City Council resolved a dilemma posed by a request from the Iglesia Christiana Rayo de Luz church. Armando Castenada requested a conditional use permit for the church to operate in the former City Side building at 301 South First Street.
The city Planning Commission had initially recommended against the conditional use permit, although its members did not object to seeing the church operate at the location, according to City Manager Steve Jones. They pointed out that the city has an ordinance in place that prohibits the issuance of liquor licenses within 300 feet of any religious facility.
If the church was allowed to operate in the former City Side building, the city would not be able to issue new liquor licenses for restaurants or other places of entertainment in the portion of the downtown where those activities are prevalent and encouraged by city zoning.
Council members agreed that they wanted to maintain the downtown zoning for restaurant and entertainment businesses, Jones said. They also had no objections to the church being located in the former City Side property.
They took two actions. They approved a conditional use permit for the church. And, they approved the first reading of an ordinance that exempts the downtown area from the 300-foot restriction on issuing liquor licenses near churches, Jones said.
The former City Side building is currently not fully utilized, according to Jones. Its kitchen facilities are being used for a catering operation.
The Iglesia Christiana Rayo de Luz church is currently operating in space provided it by the First Congregational Church.
The congregation now will be moving into one of Montevideo's downtown landmarks. Originally built in 1919, the three-story, steel-framed building was constructed as the Eagles building. It has housed a general store and photography shop, movie theater, Veterans of Foreign Wars, mercantile and other businesses. It was a renovated in 1971 and has been used as a restaurant, bar and entertainment complex ever since, including a stint as a strip club.