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City Considers Changes to Liquor License Rules

Eating and drinking establishments are good for St. Charles. They provide jobs, economic activity and tax revenue. Proposed rules will better differentiate restaurants from taverns/bars.

Eating and drinking establishments are a significant contributor to the local economy in St. Charles. There is little doubt that downtown St. Charles is the dining and entertainment hub in the Tri-Cities, if not all of Kane County. The establishments provide a place for residents and visitors to gather to dine and drink. They also generate a significant amount of tax revenue for state and local government entities. The current establishments generate approximately $1 million in sales and alcoholic beverage taxes for the city. The establishments also pay property taxes to support local government services and provide hundreds of jobs.

Under the city’s current codes and ordinances, Class B licenses authorize the retail sale of alcoholic liquors, or beer and wine only, for consumption on the premises, whose primary purpose is that of a restaurant or restaurant & tavern. Class C licenses shall authorize the retail sale of alcoholic liquors for consumption on the premises of a tavern, bar or saloon.

Given some of the perceptions regarding the number of tavern/bar establishments, the ’s preference to limit the number of tavern/bar licenses, and a desire to encourage more restaurants/dining in the downtown area, the City is considering action to better differentiate restaurants from taverns/bars.

Over the past several months, various modifications to the Section 5.08 of the City Code (Alcoholic Beverages) have been identified by staff and elected officials. The most significant change proposed is to modify the license classes to better define the various types of establishments that serve alcohol beverages—(1) Restaurant, (2) Restaurant/Tavern, and (3) Tavern/Bar. In addition, the hours of operation will be modified, depending on the type of establishment. A holder of a Restaurant class-license will be required to terminate liquor service at 11:59 p.m. A holder of a Restaurant/Tavern class-license or a Tavern/Bar class-license will be required to terminate liquor service at 1:59 a.m. More specifically:

  • For a “Restaurant” licensed under B-1, B-4 and B-5 classes, establishment must terminate alcohol service no later than 11:59 pm. Also, require that establishment operate the full kitchen and provide the full menu of items to patrons for hours that alcohol is served.
  • For a “Restaurant and Tavern” licensed under B-2, B-3, and B-6, alcohol may be served until 2 am. Establishment must operate the full kitchen and provide the full menu of items to patrons for hours that alcohol is served.
  • For all Class C "Tavern" establishments, alcohol may be served until 2 a.m. Also, food/menu items shall be available at all times liquor sales are being conducted. In the event a full menu is not provided, a reduced menu, which includes only appetizers, sandwiches, snacks, hors d’oeuvres or other similar foods, shall be available.

 

In addition, there are slight increases in the fees proposed for tavern/bar license classifications.

On Monday, Feb. 6, the City Council's Government Operations Committee endorsed the proposed changes. City staff is now in the process of communicating with the owners and operators of the eating and drinking establishments in St. Charles to obtain their feedback regarding the proposals.

If you would like to review the proposal in greater detail, you can find it here.

Eating and drinking establishments are good for St. Charles. They provide jobs, economic activity, and tax revenue for the community. And, in this day of e-tailing and internet commerce, dining out is one segment of the retail economy that cannot be purchased via the web. It is important that the City of St. Charles continue to foster an environment that supports these types of establishments. It is also important that rules and regulations be implemented that reflect community values. We believe the proposed changes will achieve this.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

David Amundson February 10, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Mr. Townsend: I sincerely appreciate the offer, but if you don't mind, I'd prefer to continue this discussion in the virtual public square that is the patch. This way, the beneficiaries of the discussion can be the whole of the community, not just the two of us. Since perception and education are virtually as important as reality, I prefer to concentrate on the public perception and education end of things. As most everyone in town recognizes, we have a bit of a problem with the number of bars/taverns/restaurants in town. We have a high number of drunken fights, disorderly conduct, and DUI's that happen in this, the "#1 Town for Families in America." Additionally, City Council was led to pass a public urination law about a year ago; if there was not an underlying reason for the need to utilize the law, then why did they pass it? These things seem to be at odds with each other; what we think of ourselves as being, and what we have actually become. We have a significant disconnect here. Yes, the current and proposed ordinance says that the "intent" of the law is that "restaurants" and "restaurants and taverns" have their "primary business...be the service of meals." The problem is that it nowhere defines "primary" or offers any guidance or rules for what will happen if the "primary" business really turns out to be the sale of alcohol. The difference between a "restaurant/tavern" and a "tavern" is thus a difference without a distinction.
David Amundson February 10, 2012 at 08:12 PM
(con't) Given that, Council authorizes liquor licenses for what they think will be restaurants, but then find out too late that they operate more like a bar. How can good public policy be a possible result when the outcome is completely unknown? I find it very curious that the 50% "bright-line" rule works just fine for Geneva (and also used to work just fine for St. Charles as well, before it was stripped from our own ordinance). I do not recall reports of Geneva having to pass a public urination law, or send in their police force on a regular basis to break up drunken fights in their downtown. Yet, they have a fine dining nightlife that is far superior to our own. The many fine dining establishments in Geneva do not at all seem hampered by the 50% "bright-line" test - in fact, they seem to thrive on it. How is that possible? Could it be possible that patrons of fine dining establishments (the exact type of patron you forwarded that you would like to attract more of to our own downtown) want to have their fine dining experience absent of street brawls, people urinating on the sides of buildings, and people vomiting on the sidewalks? Despite the intense lure of an opportunity to be a real gentleman for his date, I do not know any gentlemen who are actively seeking out opportunities to take off their coat and lay it down on the sidewalk so that their date does not have to step in a puddle of vomit.
David Amundson February 10, 2012 at 08:39 PM
(con't) Finally, I am not forwarding that the City dictate the consumption of food with alcohol sales. What I am forwarding is that the consumption of alcohol has enough inherent problems associated with it that society has felt the need to regulate its consumption in public. Thus, we have liquor licensing ordinances, and a host of other laws associated with the production, distribution, and sale of alcohol, at the Federal, State, and local levels. For a liquor licensing ordinance to have any possibility of being effective, it must differentiate between the underlying purposes of the establishments holding the liquor licenses. That way, the Council has at least a fighting chance of making decisions based on reasonably understandable outcomes. I am arguing for more certainty in the process. Geneva's ordinance provides exactly that level of certainty. Our ordinance used to do that, but no longer does. The proposed new ordinance does nothing to address this problem, and if we adopt it as it currently stands, we will all find ourselves, five years from now, scratching our heads as to why a town that is so chock full of "restaurants" acts and feels so much like a college campus bar district.
Karl Brubaker February 10, 2012 at 09:40 PM
I don't have any background in this area but maybe some suggestions: Instead of trying to get restaurants and bars to regulate how much liquor and food they serve maybe there should be a necessary square footage relegated to serving food and liquor. For every 500 square feet of bar area there needs to be 1,500 square feet of food service area in order to have a certain license. Cutting the serving hours would be a practical way to alleviate the late night drinking too but then you are taking money out of the bar's pockets. I'm just throwing out thoughts. Also, as far as DUIs- 99% of the people leaving bars at 1:00 AM are drunk. Sorry, there is no way around it. So if the police and community really wanted to stop drinking and driving they could/should arrest 99 out of 100 patrons when they get in their cars.
Ted Schnell February 11, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Mr. Brubaker, I have to question your stats on the number of people who are drunk when they leave bars. Where'd you get that? I know a lot of people who are responsible drinkers. Then there are plenty of people who, like myself, drink nonalcoholic beverages in bars. I don't recall ever becoming intoxicated drinking Coke or Pepsi.

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