Liquor Commission offers ideas on curbing downtown drinking problems

Naperville police officers keep an eye on bar patrons as they spill onto the sidewalks along Chicago Avenue after closing in the early morning hours. | Jeff Cagle/For Sun-Times Media

The bar scene in downtown Naperville was in the spotlight during the Naperville Liquor Commission meeting Wednesday.

The meeting was dominated by a lengthy discussion about late-night drinking problems that lasted well over an hour, as commissioners sought to provide suggestions to the City Council before its August 19 meeting.

City attorney Mike DiSanto began by sharing a list of suggestions made by both local businesses as well as City Council members about what could be done to limit over-serving of alcohol in the downtown bar area.

“Suggestions have included limiting entry to establishments one hour before closing, having formal security training for bar personnel, limiting service of shots of hard liquor an hour before closing as well as not announcing a last call for shots,” DiSanto told commissioners. “I’ve also heard suggestions about limiting specials as well as not discounting below 50 percent, no promotional liquor like wine tastings, and increasing business to business communication.”

City Council members were reported to have suggested a range of options from having interior surveillance systems in place to requiring mandatory cover charges at each establishment to discourage bar hopping, especially late at night.

Mayor A. George Pradel said he wanted Naperville to be known as a town “where people can come and have a good time,” but not a party place.

“We have to work together on this problem, and it’s not just about having more police or security,” he said. “When there is a problem here in Naperville, the police are there immediately. We need our establishments to work with us and take responsibility for their patrons. We want people to be safe.”

Pradel said he was in favor of suspending all late night permits and making businesses reapply for them as part of a review process. Raising fees for those permits was also suggested. Pradel also said he favored prohibiting entrance to establishments an hour before closing as well as eliminating the serving of shots within the same time period.

Other suggestions from various liquor commissioners including reducing the size of beers served and not allowing servers to walk around and sell shots.

Other business

In other developments, commissioners reviewed a request from the Rotary Club of Naperville to serve beer and wine in conjunction with the second annual Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon on Nov. 9.

The request was for liquor service to begin at 9 a.m. for this year’s event, which would require a text amendment of the Liquor Code which currently prohibits service before noon on Sundays.

Prior to the meeting, Dave Sheble, one of the event’s race directors, explained that requests were made from spectators, runners and the city of Naperville following the race last year to add more elements to it from an entertainment perspective.

“We’re growing this event in measured steps, and we’d like to serve spectators as well as runners a celebratory glass of beer or wine after completing the race,” Sheble said. “This kind of thing is pretty typical throughout the area at a number of races. This isn’t a ‘drinking’ event by any means. We don’t feel that someone who has just finished a half or full marathon is going to drink a ton of beer afterwards.”

Sheble said the city was looking to “enhance the experience for runners and fans” by perhaps adding music, entertainment or limited liquor sales.

“Last year, we sent people downtown to the bars and restaurants, but this time we’re hoping to offer something here at the race,” he said. “The 9 a.m. amendment would be necessary because that’s about the time the half-marathon runners begin finishing.”

Pradel initially said he believed that “running and exercise and drinking” didn’t seem to go together. After minimal discussion, commissioners directed DiSanto to draft a special Class L license to be reviewed by the City Council that would allow beer and liquor service for one day only during the race, as well as grant earlier liquor service by area establishments on race day.

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1 Comment

  • ThomasCechner

    Remember when Wheaton was a dry town and didn't have any of Naperville's brawls, killings and drunken driving problems? Some solutions, close early, limit the liquor licenses down town, no new liquor licenses downtown, raise the yearly tax for a license to perhaps $20,000, close early, no pitchers of beer or drinks, sell only wine downtown. Remember when Naperville had a family friendly rural farm town atmosphere? Time for Naperville to be reimbursed for the killings, loss of reputation and extra police needed. Is the City Council managing this problem or are they being managed by the bars?

    2014-08-16 11:55:06 | Reply



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