Walgreens wants to sell liquor at its Naperville stores

Walgreens is looking to sell liquor at its Naperville stores. | AP fle photo
Walgreens is looking to sell liquor at its Naperville stores. | AP fle photo

Representatives from Walgreens met for more than 90 minutes with the Naperville Liquor Commission Thursday to request a new license category for their 10 stores in the city and one in an unincorporated area near Naperville.

Donovan Pepper, national director of local government relations, along with six other company representatives and attorneys, urged commissioners to consider recommending to the City Council that a new liquor license for stores averaging 10,000 square feet be created in order let Walgreens offer the sale of beer, wine, and spirits.

“We’ve never has liquor sold in our stores here, but we have had liquor sales throughout the country for some time,” Pepper explained. “Years ago, we began phasing out the sale of liquor in many of our stores in lieu of other products, but due to changes in people’s shopping habits and shifts in the economy and the desire for ‘one-stop’ shopping, we are looking to bring them back to make sure our stores grow and remain competitive.”

Mayor A. George Pradel questioned Pepper and his colleagues about their request in light of the stance Walgreens has taken over the years as stores were added to Naperville, which has the third largest concentration of stores in the state, following Chicago and Springfield.

“I remember people always asking as each store came up for approval about not carrying liquor and if that was what Walgreens really wanted to do,” Pradel said. “Each time we asked, people said ‘no’ that they didn’t want any alcohol here.”

Pepper said the company has been working over the past seven years to slowly reintroduce alcohol sales in its stores and believes that the time is right to approach Naperville about requesting a new category of liquor license that would allow for it.

“We wanted to be respectful towards the community and we feel Naperville is a key location for our growth here in Illinois which is where we began,” Pepper said. “Together throughout our stores here, we employ 350 people and 325 of them live in Naperville.”

Before the presentation, Walter Johnson, president and CEO of the Turning Pointe Autism Foundation, made a surprise visit to the Liquor Commission meeting and gave an unexpected endorsement for the Walgreens group.

“We have worked with Walgreens and they have helped provide us with enormous support and I have to say, you couldn’t find a more responsible corporate citizen,” Johnson said. “We’ve worked for nine years with Walgreens and feel they have made significant contributions here to the community.”

After fielding a variety of questions from commissioners ranging from hours of operation to security measures used to monitor liquor sales, Pradel announced he would “appoint a committee” which would study the matter and make its first report back to the commission in September.

“We have to conduct extensive research on this as we’re moving into an entirely new area here and there will be others waiting in the wings,” Pradel said. “This is something we’re going to have to consider very seriously as there are concerns about the changes this could bring in other locations as well.”

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