There is much we don’t yet know about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints‘ downtown redevelopment project that will replace the existing malls on Salt Lake City’s Main Street. Church leaders are keeping most of the details under wraps until autumn.
But the church did answer two often-asked questions last week when it announced there will be no rule against liquor sales in restaurants at the new mall and that its retail stores will be closed on Sundays.
The latter was pretty much expected, but the former is quite a nice surprise, one that should serve to assuage concerns that LDS Church ownership of the city’s largest single development (and one of the country’s biggest downtown redevelopment projects) would turn it into a Mormons-only enclave.
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Few Salt Lakers would have predicted that the church, which preaches against alcohol consumption and withholds permission to attend temple ceremonies from members who imbibe, would allow liquor sales on its property. And, technically, it won’t.
It appears that the church wants to avoid seeming to condone drinking while also acknowledging that alcohol sales are vital to a vibrant downtown that draws people for evening and weekend entertainment. So LDS leaders have decided to sell property within the malls to an outside restaurant developer.
Whatever the reasoning behind it, the church has made a wise business decision and is winning deserved praise for showing tolerance toward people who would like a glass of wine with dinner before attending a Jazz game or a symphony concert.
In all probability, a sizable number of those people will live in the housing – eventually as many as 900 units – that will be part of the development. So the church’s decision will make living downtown a more attractive option for a diverse population.
Sunday closure of the development’s retail component won’t be as much of an adjustment for Utahns as it might be in some other parts of the country. The church-owned ZCMI Center has always been open just six days a week and the Crossroads Plaza across the street has seldom attracted many Sunday shoppers.
The church’s commendable decision to allow alcohol consumption at restaurants in the redevelopment zone shows a commitment to tolerance and under- standing that will be good for Main Street, good for the city and good for Utah.
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