Eau Claire City Council approves housing agreement, grants license

Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 10:29 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -A project years in the making takes a step forward while one business is awarded a hard to get alcohol license at Tuesday’s Eau Claire City Council meeting.

Since applying for a federal grant around five years ago to build a new Transit Transfer Center, the City of Eau Claire has been working to build workforce housing on top of it.

The search for a company to do the project is now over.

“What’s in front of you is a signed development agreement from Merge, LLC,” said Steve Nick, the Eau Claire City Attorney. “It’s the same developer that recently completed the Andante project on the Eau Claire River between Farwell and Barstow Street.”

The Eau Claire City Council also signed off on the agreement. Under it, Merge, LLC will pay $250,000 for the space to build and the city will pay a total of $5 million as the company reaches certain benchmarks.

One provision in the agreement did cause concern for some council members.

“There is a period of time that certainly we’ll be watching carefully that goes through Aug. 15 where the developer has the option to not go through with the deal if they cannot obtain financing,” Nick said. “We’ve reviewed that with them, and they are confident in their ability to find that financing.”

When that funding is secured, work on the project would begin this fall.

In addition to housing, the council chose a business to get the only available Combination Class B Intoxicating Liquor and Fermented Malt Beverage license.

By state law each community in Wisconsin only has a certain number of these types of permits. One became available when The Metro run by Pizza Plus LLC surrendered its license.

Three businesses wanted it: The Good Wives, Silly Serrano Mexican Restaurant and Country Beverages which is building an event area that will host Country Jam.

A majority of council members voted to give the license to The Good Wives.

“Having somehow surveyed their customers to find out they were coming from having drinks somewhere and then coming for food, again, it just says they really have their eye on becoming a fine dining opportunity in Eau Claire,” said Jill Christopherson, the city council member representing District 4.

Three council members wanted to give the license to one of the other businesses.

In response to the city council’s decision, Country Jam released a statement saying it still plans to serve alcohol at its event.

It will now apply for a different permit that is more restrictive and costs $11,000 more than a Combination Class B license does.