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Monday, October 18, 2021

Residents will no longer need to travel far to grab a mimosa after church on Sundays.

The Gainesville City Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to amend an ordinance that forbids places of religious assembly and bars to be within 300 feet of each another.

The city previously required bars to be more than 300 feet from places of religious assembly and 400 feet from private and public schools. With the newly amended ordinance, this rule will not apply to the central city district and the tourist-oriented district. The spacing requirement will continue to apply everywhere else in the city.

The central city district, located downtown, is bordered by Northwest and Southwest Sixth streets and Northeast and Southeast Third streets. It encompasses Bo Diddley Community Plaza, the Hippodrome State Theatre and multiple restaurants and bars.

The tourist-oriented district refers to a small area on Southwest 13th Street lined with hotels and motels about two miles past Archer Road.

There are no private or public schools located in either of the districts. There are no establishments serving alcohol or places of religious assembly located in the tourist-oriented district.

The commission decided to discuss amending the ordinance after a church, The Rock of Gainesville, opened downtown on South Main Street at the former site of Happy Hour Billiards.

Downtown business owners were worried about the spacing requirement when the church opened in 2011, according to a city document about the change.

A rector of a church in downtown Gainesville told the Alligator in early January that as long as no problems arise as a result of lewd behavior, she would be fine with the new ordinance.

"I'm not going to say I'd love to have a bar right next to us," said the Rev. Louanne Loch, rector at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. "But we haven't had a problem with any of them in the past."

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