The city of Wichita is poised to declare a public emergency so Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar can party in the parking lot.
On Tuesday, the City Council is expected to adopt an emergency ordinance allowing drinking at special events in the east part of Old Town. The change will allow Mort’s some extra space to celebrate its 20th anniversary, an event expected to draw a substantially larger crowd than the venue can hold.
Mort’s had applied to the city for a special permit so it could cordon off part of the adjacent parking lot for the event, scheduled for June 18 and 19.
But city officials found out they couldn’t grant the permit because the public parking lot is city-owned and state law prohibits drinking on public property, unless the local government specifically authorizes it by ordinance, council member Janet Miller said.
The only way to get an ordinance through in time for the party is to declare an emergency, which lets the city take immediate action.
The general nature of such public emergency is that an event is pending which will involve the use of a parking lot … which is public property and subject to the prohibition against the consumption of alcohol thereon.
City of Wichita Declaration of Emergency
“The general nature of such public emergency is that an event is pending which will involve the use of a parking lot … which is public property and subject to the prohibition against the consumption of alcohol thereon,” says the city’s Declaration of Emergency. “It is therefore, expedient at this time that the (City Council) find and declare that a public emergency exists by reason of the foregoing.”
Mort’s co-owner Morrie Sheets said he’s been getting congratulations on the anniversary up to and including a plaque from Gov. Sam Brownback. Southwest Airlines called about doing a story on the bar for its inflight magazine, he said.
Sheets said he appreciated the city’s action.
It’s just something that hasn’t been asked for that many times in the history of Wichita.
Morrie Sheets, co-owner of Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar
“It’s unfortunate it took so long to get it done, and it’s not their fault, it’s just something they had to work through,” he said. “They’ve been great to work with. It’s just something that hasn’t been asked for that many times in the history of Wichita.”
The party is slated to run from noon to 2 a.m. on June 18 and noon to 10 p.m. on June 19.
Sheets said he’ll have continuous live music and has booked nine bands for Saturday and five for Sunday.
A $5 cover charge includes a barbecue and the bands. “Drinks, you pay for,” Sheets said. “Unfortunately, it’s against the law to give away a free drink.”
Mort’s regular capacity is limited to 198 – 68 inside and 130 on the patio. Sheets expects about 500 a day for the party and is planning to use part of the parking lot to set up tent seating for the crowds.
The city’s new ordinance will cover a rectangular area bounded by First Street to the north, Washington to the east, Douglas to the south and Mosley to the west.
The ordinance will allow drinking in that area only during special events approved by the city government.