After a couple rocky months, the guys behind Midtown restaurant and bar The Sinking Ship have fought off community challenges to alcohol renewal bid. They headed home from a hearing this week with renewal in hand — and the satisfaction that the Ship's opponents were roundly criticized by both community members and alcohol renewal board members alike.
A newly-founded organization under the misguidance of Paula Light and Conrad Cortellini— Meridian Kessler Neighbors Helping Neighbors — declared war on the bar earlier this summer, challenging the bar's liquor license renewal and seeking to collect evidence of misbehavior within or near the bar.
As noted by various NUVO writers in the past few months (including myself), The Sinking Ship has become a community fixture, just under six months after its opening. Simply put, owners Damon Lyden and Andy Hamaker have created the perfect bar for Indianapolis.
As such, opposition to the bar came as a head-scratcher to many supporters. Opposition by Cortellini, a self-proclaimed “green architect” who has been an outspoken advocate for the Midtown area, particularly came as a bit of a shock to many familiar for those familiar with his professional work.
During the August 15 Alcohol Beverage Board hearing at which Cortellini remonstrated against the renewal of the Ship’s liquor license, it was revealed that his move against the Ship may boil down to little more than an election stunt. (Cortellini is a write-in candidate for this year's mayoral election.)
In addition to calling out Cortellini for his campaign antics, board members confronted him on his characterization of the board as a “quasi-judicial board of political appointees” with “no judicial experience." Cortellini tried to out-smart the Ship and the Alcohol Beverage Board and make a name for himself. He did indeed make a name for himself, but I don't think the outcome was what he had in mind.
Lyden and Hamaker walked away with a renewed liquor license and invigorated sense of community pride. The triumph for the Sinking Ship is also a triumph for the whole neighborhood. Now with these problems behind them, I hope that they have more time to work on getting the appropriate permits for live music. The space has already showcased a handful of low-profile shows, but it's too perfect to be anything less than a fully functional music venue.