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Downtown Enticing for More Trendy Restaurants

(La Porte, IN) - A place for casual dining serving alcoholic beverages adds to the growing menu of trendy restaurants designed to make downtown LaPorte more of a destination.

The La Porte City Council has extended the boundaries of an economic development zone called the Municipal Riverfront Development Project area. One such establishment has been going into the old LaPorte Sporting Goods building vacant for about the past ten years.


“Everybody talks about we need more to do, more restaurants, more availability.  So, we’re excited to see where this is going to go moving forward,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.

Dermody said the restaurant serving appetizers and other small dishes would also provide a gathering place on the second floor. The restaurant should open sometime in the fall of 2022.


Dermody said the restaurant's name and other specifics would be released at some point in the future.


Bert Cook, Executive Director of the LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership, said the new downtown restaurant was made possible by a tool used in other communities like Valparaiso and Michigan City to attract more restaurants serving alcohol.


The tool approved years ago by the state legislature is a Riverfront Liquor License District giving cities an unlimited number of liquor licenses for issuing strictly to restaurants wanting to serve alcohol. The boundaries of the district must be adjacent to bodies of water. The northern edge of the district in LaPorte is beside Lily Lake.   


Cook said the liquor licenses cost about $2,500 with a $1,000 annual renewal fee that must be returned if the businesses close. In comparison, more traditional liquor licenses costing upwards of $100,000 are very limited in supply. Traditional licenses can also be kept and used later or sold by the owners if they go out of business.


“We have a pretty regular number of businesses saying they’d like to start a restaurant but can’t get access to any kind of liquor licenses either because they’re scarce and not available or they’re cost prohibitive,” Cook said.

The Riverfront Municipal License District in La Porte was created in 2019. It was used just once previously to help with El Cantarito, a Mexican restaurant at the Pine Lake Shopping Center.


The city council Monday night expanded the district to include a much larger area of the downtown. Cook said there is a good chance at least three more licenses will be issued next year to other restaurants serving alcohol wanting to locate downtown.  


“We believe the geographic expansion will help open up other opportunities,” Cook explained.

The newest downtown restaurants include the Melt Kitchen at 810 Lincolnway, Maple & Rye at 708 Michigan Avenue, and Bare Bones, a gastropub at 518 Lincolnway. Cook said the idea provides more options for keeping residents from going elsewhere for dining and attracting people from surrounding communities.


“It’ll just further the path that we’re on to be a downtown destination in Northwest Indiana,” he said.

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