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Entertainment venue loses its alcohol license
City council says Armadillo Palace not a true restaurant
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The Gainesville City Council has upheld a judge’s ruling to revoke the alcoholic beverage license for the Armadillo Palace on Cleveland Highway.

In May, Gainesville Municipal Court Judge Hammond Law agreed with the city marshal’s recommendation that the establishment’s alcohol license be revoked because it was not operating as a “true restaurant.”

Marion Cartwright, Armadillo Palace owner, appealed that ruling and the council considered his request during an alcoholic beverage license appeal hearing Thursday.

According to city staff, a restaurant with an alcohol license must generate at least 50 percent of its sales from non-alcoholic beverages and food.

“We don’t have a problem getting in our 50 percent (non-alcohol sales),” said Cartwright about his establishment that caters largely to the Latino community.

“The (Latinas) don’t drink much (alcohol). The men usually drink beer and the women drink a lot of Red Bull, Coke and water. And we sell a lot of popcorn — the other night I must’ve sold $200 worth of popcorn.”

Although, the other items technically count toward his 50 percent quota, Gainesville City Marshal Debbie Jones said the Armadillo Palace’s shortage of actual food service negated its title as a restaurant.

During multiple visits to the establishment, Jones noted that there were either no customers present, limited food available to prepare or no food out during expected buffet hours.

“I would say that (Armadillo Palace) is not operating as a restaurant,” Jones said. “I would say it’s not perceived by the public as a restaurant — I think the public sees it as more of an entertainment venue.”

In addition to having a DJ and live music, the venue is also  popular for quinceañeras — a coming of age party for girls in the Latino community on their 15th birthday.

Cartwright is also the owner of Northlake Plaza, the shopping center where Armadillo Palace is located, which also contains other restaurants. As the landlord, Cartwright says he tries to not compete with his tenants for business — which is why his traditional food sales are low. During lunch hours, Cartwright’s regular menu is limited to hamburgers, hotdogs and chicken sandwiches.

Jones said although Cartwright has lost his alcohol license, he is free to continue serving food at his establishment. He just can’t sell alcohol.

During a work session following the hearing, the council discussed possibly updating its alcoholic beverage ordinance to establish some sort of waiting period between when an establishment loses it’s alcohol license and when it can re-apply.

“The (current) ordinance doesn’t give any guidance about a waiting period,” Jones said.

“Technically a business could lose their (alcoholic beverage) license and turn right around and re-apply.”

The council also discussed updating its adult entertainment ordinancebecause of what city staff called “negative secondary (side) effects” related to adult entertainment establishments. Among other things, the proposed amendments address the location of adult entertainment establishments and gives the city marshal the authority to revoke or suspend an adult entertainment license.
“I couldn’t help but think about when we first passed this ordinance. I knew there were going to be these secondary (side) effects, it just took a while for them to rear their ugly heads,” said George Wangemann, city councilman.

“It seems very clear to me that we may need to go beyond regulating this industry — we may need to shut it down. These kinds of side effects can destroy a community and I’m not for anything that destroys a community.”

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