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Tom's Town fighting to get liquor restrictions lifted

Posted at 6:40 PM, Dec 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-05 19:52:36-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — David Epstein, the founder and co-owner of Tom's Town, is fighting to get rid of the restrictions that he says is holding his craft distillery back.

Under their current liquor license, Tom's Town can sell their product, a single white wine, a single red wine and one beer product.

"We’re not allowed to play live music in the cradle of jazz in the United States. That’s just crazy," Epstein said.

In addition to expanding the drink menu, Epstein also wants to add live music and stay open later than 11 p.m., which isn't allowed under his current license. 

Two years ago, the city made changes to the liquor license ordinance letting more property owners weigh in on who gets a liquor license.

Recently, Epstein applied for a license that would lift the current restrictions but was unable to gather consent from a minimum of 15 property owners.

"You can’t say that a property owner that owns 10 properties, gets 10 votes that’s just simply that’s not how America operates," Epstein said.

In this case, the majority property owner is Brad Nicholson, who did not respond to 41 Action News' requests for comment Wednesday because he is out of town.

But in 2016, Nicholson told 41 Action News over the phone his big concern was the Crossroads would veer away from being an Arts district.

This upcoming Tuesday, the liquor advisory board will hear this case.

"They are going to make a determination if I followed the ordinance," said Jim Ready, manager of Regulated Industries. "You know, anytime I deny an application it has to be within the ordinance."

Epstein believes the board will deny their appeal so he's ready to go to court.

"The real problem is that a judge comes in and re-writes the books, rewrites the laws. That’s really risky, don’t we really—wouldn't we really rather have a legislative body take care of this?" said Epstein.

But for the distillery, that sits a stone's throw away from the rising convention hotel, momentum is on their side.

"It's unfair. Let's change this, it’s time for someone to step up and end this and I guess it’s going to have to be us taking that leadership role," Epstein said.